Indian Army chief General MM Naravane on Thursday said that the threat to India from China had only subsided, but has not been entirely resolved despite the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, reported Times Now.
“The threat has only abated...It has not gone away altogether and unless substantial amount of de-escalation takes place, that is, all the troops who had come in from the other regions...from their permanent garrisons...now are within striking distance of the border if you would put it that way,” he said at Times Network’s India Economic Conclave. “Unless all these elements also go back we would not be able to really say that things are back to normal.”
Naravane said there was tension on the northern borders that was dealt with through multiple rounds of talks, culminating in disengagement along the Pangong Tso. He also noted that these discussions were held in multiple rounds, involving Indian and Chinese defence ministers, culminating in the disengagement at Pangong Tso.
“There are some areas which we still have to negotiate but in the overall scheme of things, [I] feel that we have very strong grounds to believe that we will be able to achieve all our aims,” Naravane said.
On the question of whether the Chinese were on any of the areas considered to be under Indian control, the Army chief said that it would be an incorrect statement. “There are areas which are under nobody’s control,” he explained. “So where we were controlling we are in those areas and where they were controlling, they are in those areas. The whole issue of Line of Actual Control is because of these grey areas. Because there is no demarcated LAC and there are different claims and perceptions. So unless the LAC is demarcated, you cannot make the statement that I am where I am, he is where he is.”
The Army chief said that patrolling by the Indian troops had not resumed to prevent any “inadvertent escalation”. “Because we feel that the tensions are still running high and when patrolling resumes there are always chances of face-offs or inadvertent escalation of the situation.” He added that a decision will be taken on resuming patrols through talks.
When asked about the developments in Depsang and a few other friction points, the Army Chief said these were the topics that would be discussed in the talks in future. “The guiding principles still remains that we need to restore the traditional rights and that would apply to both sides, after all it is not as if only one side was doing the patrolling,” he said, adding that a mutual agreement had to be reached.
On February 24, Naravane had said that the ongoing disengagement process between India and China along the LAC 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.
Tensions between the two countries flared up in June last year after 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 Beijing 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.
Almost nine months after the standoff began, both countries announced an agreement in February for soldiers to disengage on either side of the Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh, where the first clashes occurred in May 2020. Thousands of soldiers from the rivals sides have been deployed on the Himalayan frontier since April on the Line of Actual Control. The disengagement process along the Pangong Tso began on February 10, as military commanders began pulling out troops, tanks and artillery from the area in the first step towards full withdrawal. On February 20, India and China held commander-level talks to discuss pulling back from other areas.
On February 25, Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi also agreed in a telephone call that the two countries should “quickly resolve the remaining issues” in the eastern Ladakh region.
On March 12, India and China held “in-depth discussions” on the remaining matters along the LAC in the western sector. The talks were held under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs. India’s foreign ministry had then said that the disengagement in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake provided a “good basis” to work towards early resolution of the matters yet to be resolved.