Rajnath meets military brass, reviews situation
Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday met the military brass and reviewed the border developments in eastern Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese armies are implementing a complex disengagement plan, officials familiar with the matter said.
Singh held discussions with the chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs ahead of the fourth meeting between delegations led by Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the South Xinjiang military region, along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“The meeting between the corps commander-ranked officers is likely to take place in three to four days,” said one of the officials cited above.
The meeting is expected to focus on the critical Finger Area and the strategic Depsang plains, with a complex disengagement process that began after previous military talks on June 30 progressing smoothly in the Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and Gogra, as reported by HT on Friday.
Tensions between the two countries escalated when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley on June 15. An undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers died in the violent face-off.
The minister also spoke with US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper over the telephone and the conversation covered aspects related to bilateral military cooperation and the current border tensions with China, said a second official.
While the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pulled back 2km from Patrolling Point 14 (Galwan Valley) and PP-15 (Hot Springs) earlier this week, a similar retreat was completed at PP-17 (Gogra) on Thursday. The Indian Army, too, has pulled back proportionately from these friction areas and is closely monitoring PLA’s withdrawal.
The army has observed some thinning of PLA troops, vehicles and removal of structures from the base of Finger 4 during the last three days but the PLA continues to hold ridge-line positions on the spur near Pangong Tso, the second official said.
The Finger Area, which refers to a set of eight cliffs jutting out of the Sirijap range overlooking the Pangong lake, is expected to test the disengagement process.
Before the PLA grabbed positions on Finger 4 overlooking Indian deployments, the army would patrol right up to Finger 8 that New Delhi considers within Indian territory. The new positions held by the PLA have curtailed the scope of Indian patrols. Fingers 4 and 8 are 8km apart.
The army is keeping a strict vigil on the Depsang sector, where the PLA’s forward presence is a matter of concern. A 2013 Chinese intrusion there blocked the access of Indian soldiers to several patrolling routes.
The defence minister also spoke with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-Doo, over the telephone and discussed regional security developments of mutual interest, a spokesperson said.
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