China may have posted 5,000 soldiers across LAC, officials say as tension grows along border
China may have marshalled close to 5,000 soldiers on its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh sector where India has also sent military reinforcements to strengthen its defences as growing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) threatens to plunge the bilateral relationship to a new low, people familiar with the development said on Monday.
Indian and Chinese soldiers are eyeball-to-eyeball at four locations along the LAC and several rounds of talks between local military commanders , including a meeting on Monday, have failed to end the standoff that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols three weeks ago near Pangong Tso.
There have been troop reinforcements by China, around 5,000 of whose troops may now be present in the region, two officials said on condition of anonymity. The Chinese forces are not concentrated anywhere near the flashpoints, but scattered on their side, the officials said.
Sending the military reinforcements, including troops, vehicles and heavy equipment, did not require much effort as China diverted the resources from an ongoing military exercise in the region, said one of the officials cited above.
India is tracking all aspects of the Chinese deployments and parity in troop numbers is being ensured, said the second official cited above.
China’s state-run media has described the latest tensions as the worst since the 2017 Doklam standoff that lasted 73 days.
Officials and China watchers said that there was no need to get too fixated on numbers when it comes to troop reinforcements on either side of the disputed border.
“As long as troops remain in their current positions and there are no further transgressions, it could set the stage for talks to defuse the situation,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).
He added that there was no space for the deployment of 5,000 troops along the LAC and it was quite possible that the reinforcements were in so-called “depth areas.” His reference is to areas within the Chinese side of the LAC.
There has to be parity in troop numbers at the face-off sites and the back-up areas, said Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd), also a former Northern Army commander.
“You have to show presence of troops to induce dissuasion. And you also have to be concerned about the military build-up escalating into a conflict.”
Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane made a low-key visit to Ladakh last week for a security review as tensions grew between India and China near Pangong Tso and three pockets in the Galwan Valley region where Chinese troops have pitched close to 100 tents and erected temporary structures to establish a presence.
Chinese soldiers are also said to be constructing bunkers in some disputed areas.
HT was the first to report on May 10 about tensions flaring between India and China in north Sikkim where 150 soldiers were involved in a tense standoff a day earlier. Four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers were injured at Naku La during the confrontation.
Around 250 soldiers from the two countries clashed near Pangong Tso on the night of May 5-6, with the scuffle leaving scores of troops injured. While an immediate flare-up was avoided as both armies stuck to protocols to resolve the situation, tensions spread to other pockets along the LAC.
The latest standoff is not confined to a small area, has triggered an increase in troop numbers on both sides at multiple locations and seems to suggest a greater design rather than adventurism by local commanders, as reported by HT on Sunday.
Experts said breaking the stalemate would require political direction and diplomatic intervention.
Both India and China are locked in a war of words over the border row. Last week, India rejected Beijing’s allegation that Indian troops were responsible for triggering tensions, and instead accused the Chinese army of hindering Indian patrols.
The Indian reaction came after China’s foreign ministry accused Indian troops of trespassing across the LAC and said Beijing had to take “necessary countermeasures” after the Indian Army allegedly obstructed patrols by Chinese troops.