Won’t cede any territory: New army chief on China
There's no question of letting China change the status quo in Ladakh, said army chief General Manoj Pande.
NEW DELHI: Indian soldiers are deployed on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in a “resolute, firm and peaceful way”, and there is no question of letting China change the status quo in Ladakh, the new Indian Army chief, General Manoj Pande, said on Sunday, even as he stressed that talks between the two nations to resolve the border standoff were the way forward.
“We are very clear we will not permit any change in status quo or loss of territory. Talks are on, and only when you talk to each other, you can find a solution. We are confident that we will find resolution to the ongoing issues,” said Pande, a day after taking over as India’s 29th army chief from General Manoj Mukund Naravane.
The army chief’s comments came at a time when the border standoff in eastern Ladakh has entered its third year, and a full resolution is still not in sight, even though the two countries have had partial success in disengaging rival soldiers from some friction areas on the LAC.
The army had carried out continuous threat assessment during the past two years, and realigned and reoriented forces in forward areas, Pande said. “The unilateral and provocative actions by the adversary to alter status quo by force have been adequately responded to… Our soldiers are holding important physical positions,” he said.
The two countries have been locked in a border row since early May 2020, and despite disengagement of soldiers from Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs area, the two armies still have around 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.
The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have held 15 rounds of military talks to cool border tensions, but problems at Patrol Point-15 near Kongka La, Depsang Bulge in Daulet Beg Oldi sector and Charding Nullah Junction (CNJ) in Demchok sector are still on the negotiating table.
The army would work towards reducing tensions at LAC, and ensure that status quo is restored at the earliest, Pande said. Talking about the army’s preparedness in the Ladakh sector, he said the force had inducted additional troops, equipment and also built infrastructure, especially habitat, to meet operational and logistics needs.
“We will have to resolve the problems in the Ladakh sector through political, diplomatic and military dialogue,” former director general of military operations Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd) said last week.
Disengagement of rival troops and de-escalation of the border conflict with China was the way forward, and the ongoing talks for peaceful resolution of the standoff would continue even as Indian troops stood firm on the ground, defence minister Rajnath Singh said last month.
Over the past two years, India and China have hardened their stance on LAC with increased military activities on both sides of the boundary, deployment of modern weapons, infrastructure development, and a series of combat manoeuvres by their armies, as previously reported by HT.
Pande said one of his top priorities would be to ensure the highest level of operational preparedness to face current and future challenges across the entire spectrum of conflict. He would also focus on indigenisation and induction of new technologies in the army to bolster its combat potential, apart from the ongoing military reforms to improve the military’s efficiency.
Earlier on Sunday, Pande inspected a ceremonial guard of honour at the South Block where Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar were present. All three chiefs were batch mates at the National Defence Academy.
Pande said he and the other two chiefs grew up together in their formative years in NDA and it was a good beginning of synergy and jointmanship.
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