Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Wednesday said that the ongoing disengagement process between India and China along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh was a “win-win situation” for both sides, but there was “still a long way to go” before de-escalation and eventual de-induction of rival soldiers can be achieved through talks, reported the Hindustan Times.
“For any agreement to last, both sides should feel they have achieved something,” Naravane said in response to questions at a webinar. “The talks have had a good outcome. Disengagement is a very good end result.” The Army chief was delivering a talk on the “role of Indian Army in dealing with national security challenges”.
On February 20, India and China had issued a joint statement, saying that they will continue to push for the resolution of their outstanding matters in a steady and orderly manner to ensure that the border areas remain peaceful. The statement came after the completion of the disengagement process at the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh and the tenth round of commander-level talks between the two countries.
On Wednesday, the Army chief acknowledged that some matters remained but strategies were in place to resolve them. “We have leverage for negotiating favourable outcomes in future talks, but I would not like to mention those strategies,” he said.
Naravane said the Indian Army was progressing cautiously because of the trust deficit with China’s People’s Liberation Army. “Until that trust deficit is removed, we will be wary about the developments there…But at the end of the day, we have achieved a lot,” he said.
Naravane also claimed that China has understood that its “salami-slicing strategy” would not work with India. “Salami slicing” refers to a string of small, clandestine actions meant to achieve a larger goal that would be difficult to accomplish in one go. “China is in the habit of making small incremental moves to achieve its goals,” he said. “Each such move may not be individually noticeable.”
The Army chief asserted that this strategy used in the South China Sea would not work with India. “We have shown them this strategy will not work with us and every move will be met resolutely,” he said.
Naravane added that the advice given by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was handy and his insight into strategic level affairs helped the Army chalk out the response, reported PTI.
When asked about the steps taken to ensure that China does not occupy any heights vacated by India, he said systems were in place to make sure that there was no such reoccupation. “We will trust but we will verify,” Naravane said.
Tensions between the two countries flared up in June after deadly clashes between soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed.
China on February 19 for the first time named four soldiers who died, and another who was injured during the clash. This came eight months after China refused to disclose details of casualties in the deadly brawl with India.
The standoff persisted with both sides bolstering forces along the border. Both India and China accused each other of crossing into rival territory and of firing shots for the first time there in 45 years.
The talks between Indian and Chinese militaries began in June following the clashes. However, a breakthrough came only earlier this month. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed Parliament that the two countries will disengage from the Pangong Tso lake in a phased and coordinated manner.
“The Chinese side will keep its troop presence in the North Bank area to east of Finger 8. Reciprocally, the Indian troops will be based at their permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3,” he told the Rajya Sabha on February 11.
The disengagement process along the Pangong Tso began on February 10, with tanks and mechanised columns being pulled back from the south bank of the lake.