India and China will hold the 13th round of Commander Corps level talks on Sunday to try to resolve the military standoff on the Line of Command in Eastern Ladakh.
At the eve of the talks, Army chief General MM Naravane said the Chinese had been building infrastructure on their side of the region which means “they are there to stay”. He had made a similar remark while on a tour of eastern Ladakh last week.
China has been investing in infrastructure in its regions facing Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. It tests India’s readiness with wrongs in the middle and eastern sectors.
Soldiers are disengaged on the north and south shores of Pangong Tso and Gogra Post, but not in Hot Springs where they continue to face each other ever since the Chinese crossed the PDG in May 2020.
The Chinese have also been stopping Indian troops from accessing traditional patrol points on the Depsang Plains, not far from the Indian strategic outpost at Daulat Beg Oldie near the Karakoram Gap in the north.
An Indian team into the talks on the Chinese side of the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point will be led by Lt General PGK Menon, the XIV Corps commander in Leh. Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District, will lead the Chinese side.
Last week, there was a close confrontation in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh after Indian troops faced over 150 Chinese troops. The soldiers pushed each other before local commanders stepped in to control the situation. At the end of August, nearly 100 Chinese troops had invaded the Indian territory of Barahoti in Uttarakhand.
On Saturday, General Naravane, speaking at the India Today Conclave, said the two countries had been developing infrastructure in the region – the Ladakh border in the western sector of the PDG – for the troops and extra military equipment that came in last year.
He believed that the PDG in eastern Ladakh would become similar to the Command Line with Pakistan, but that it would not function as the LoC.
“It is concerning that the large-scale gathering, which had taken place, was still ongoing. And to maintain that kind of construction, there has been the same amount of infrastructure development on the Chinese side. ”
“It means they are there to stay,” said Naravane. “But if they’re there to stay, we’re there to stay too. And the construction on our side, and the developments on our side, are as good as what PLA has done. “
He said India was “keeping a close eye on all those developments”. He says that if Chinese troops continue to stay there for a second winter, it will “definitely mean that we will be in a sort of LC situation” even though “not an active LC as on the western front”.
He said “we will definitely have to keep a close eye on their troops building up and using them to see that they are not getting into any trouble again”.
India and China used additional troops and military equipment in the region last year. Each side has around 50,000 troops in the depth areas – a large number stayed through Ladakh’s harsh winter last year.
The head of the Army said he is not aware of why China did what it did last year in eastern Ladakh, but “whatever it may be, I do not believe that they were able to achieve any of those goals because of the response fast from the Indian Armed Forces ”.
Reiterating a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs, he said that a huge Chinese impoundment “and non-compliance with various protocols set in the past” was “the catalyst for everything that happened”.
The standoff, he said, has led to a realization in the Army that it needs to “do more as far as ISR is needed” – intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance – and that has been the “thrust of our modernization over the past year” .