Army, IAF Showcase Combat Readiness in Ladakh

Defence Minister, Army Top Brass Witness War Games Near LAC

Stakna (Ladakh)- On his first visit to eastern Ladakh since the border row with China broke out, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday witnessed an intense military drill featuring attack helicopters, T-90 tanks, infantry combat vehicles and ground commandos here at a high-altitude forward base, seen as a message to Beijing that India will maintain a high-level of combat readiness to deal with any eventualities.

The projection of India''s military prowess in the region came in the midst of diplomatic and military talks between the two countries to resolve the border row that escalated manifold following a deadly clash in Galwan Valley.

The exercise showcased integrated combat prowess of the Army and the Indian Air Force in dealing with complex security challenges in the high-altitude terrain. A large number of ground commandos, T-90 tanks, infantry combat vehicles were part of the drill.

The Indian Air Force deployed a number of Apache, Rudra and Mi-17 V5 helicopters.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General MM Naravane, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Yogesh Kumar Joshi, Commander of the 14 Corps Lt Gen Harinder Singh and several other senior Army officials were present on the occasion.

Singh''s visit came days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s surprise trip to Ladakh on July 3 during which he also addressed troops and signalled the country''s firmness in dealing with the India-China border row.

"Witnessed the Fire and Fury of the Indian Army during the Para Dropping and other military demonstrations at Stakna near Leh today," Singh later tweeted.

"Also, I got the opportunity to interact with them. I am proud of these brave and courageous soldiers," he said and posted pictures of his interaction with the military personnel.

In an address to soldiers at another forward post later, Singh said any country hurting India''s pride and eyeing Indian territory would be given a befitting reply.

"I want to assure that no power in the world can touch even one inch of India''s land or can occupy it," he said.

Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for over eight weeks since May 5.

The tension escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.

However, following a series of diplomatic and military talks, the two sides began a mutual disengagement process on July 6 and withdrew troops from most of the friction points.

On Tuesday, senior commanders of the two armies held a fourth round of talks during which the Indian delegation conveyed a "very clear" message to the Chinese army that status quo ante must be restored in eastern Ladakh and China will have to follow all mutually agreed protocols for border management to bring back peace and tranquillity in border areas, according to sources.

The Indian Army on Thursday said both sides are committed to "complete disengagement" of troops, adding the process is "intricate" and that it requires "constant verification". PTI

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