In the course of his two day visit to Ladakh, Army chief General MM Naravane — who returned to Delhi on Thursday — was briefed on the army’s preparations and ability to respond to threatening actions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the latest developments along the contested border, said three officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The army chief will now brief the top political leadership.
The security review of the Ladakh sector, where tensions rose sharply after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash in the Galwan Valley on June 15, saw the chief tour forward army bases at Durbuk and Chushul, interact with commanders on the ground and undertake aerial surveys of the army’s deployments in some sensitive sectors, said one of the officers cited above.
The sectors where Indian soldiers hold forward positions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) include Depsang, Gogra Post-Hot Springs, Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Chumar, and military negotiations for disengagement in some of these areas are in progress.
Naravane is expected to brief the political leadership on the military’s assessment of the volatile situation along the LAC and steps being taken to ease tensions that could threaten stability in the backdrop of both armies significantly stepping up their military presence, said the second officer cited above.
The situation on the ground is tricky, said the third officer cited above. “There’s mutual consensus on disengagement but continuing Chinese military buildup calls into question the PLA’s intent to restore status quo ante in strategic areas,” he said, adding that Naravane’s visit served as a morale booster for forward deployed soldiers.
“The army chief’s visit is significant in the wake of recent events that have caused considerable turbulence on the LAC. Also, there has been no concrete commitment by the PLA to stabilise the situation,” said former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (retd).
Naravane, on Wednesday, awarded commendation cards to three soldiers who were part of the outnumbered Indian squad that bravely fought off Chinese soldiers in Galwan Valley. Among other troops who were awarded commendation cards by Naravane were two soldiers who displayed courage and resolve during a violent face-off with Chinese troops near Pangong Tso on May 5-6.
Both face-offs saw Chinese soldiers gather in large numbers and attack Indian troops with stones, iron rods and nail-studded clubs.
Last week, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria made a low-key visit to Ladakh to review the Indian Air Force (IAF)‘s preparedness in the sector, where the IAF has also raised its guard to deal with any military provocations by the Chinese forces.