India keeps an eye on PLA movement in Ladakh theatre
India is keeping tabs on Chinese military manoeuvres, including land and air drills, in the Ladakh-Tibet theatre even as the two sides are negotiating a complex disengagement process to pull back their front-line troops and weapons from friction points in eastern Ladakh, people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Indian military has tracked recently conducted air drills that involved a squadron-plus Chinese fighter jets (over 18 aircraft), an exercise carried out last month, and is also keeping a watch on Chinese training areas that are at a depth of 1,000 km to 1,500 km from the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), said one of the officials cited above.
“The Chinese military has been carrying out training drills and activities in their depth areas. We also carry out training activities on our side,” said another official.
On May 28, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said his soldiers were on high alert as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continued to base its troops and mechanised elements in its “immediate depth” across the LAC from where they could be deployed to forward areas at short notice. (Immediate depth in the context of the Ladakh sector refers to a distance of 150 km to 200 km from the LAC.)
Both armies have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each in the Ladakh theatre and the deployments have not thinned after the disengagement in the Pangong Tso sector.
The air forces of both countries also remain deployed in the Ladakh-Tibet theatre just as they were when the border row was at its peak last year, as reported by Hindustan Times on April 1.
The Indian and Chinese armies began negotiations to resolve the border row more than a year ago, but the two sides have only had limited success in hammering out an agreement for disengagement of rival soldiers deployed at friction points.
The Indian Army and the Chinese PLA have held 11 rounds of talks between corps commander-ranked officers since June 6, 2020, to reduce tensions along the disputed border.
The only significant outcome of the military dialogue has been the disengagement of front-line troops and weaponry from Pangong Tso in mid-February after the ninth round of talks.