PLA Has Not Pulled Out Troops From Ladakh Frontline: Army Chief

New Delhi: Army chief Gen MM Naravane on Tuesday hoped for an amicable resolution of the military standoff with China in Ladakh through talks and based on “mutual and equal security” even as he said the collusive and potent threat from China and Pakistan to India cannot be “wished away”.

Gen Naravane at the same time asserted that Indian troops are fully prepared to deal with any eventuality along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and will hold their ground as long as it takes to achieve the “national goals and objectives.”

The Chief of Army Staff was addressing a news conference here ahead of the Army Day on January 15.

On increasing security challenges at the LAC, he said a need was felt about “rebalancing” of troops along the northern borders and subsequently steps have been taken to put adequate focus on the borders with China.

“I am sure that through dialogue and discussion, we will be able to reach an amicable solution based on the principle of mutual and equal security and in consonance with the talks…I am very hopeful for a positive situation. But as I said, we are ready to meet any eventuality,” he said.

“We are prepared to hold our ground as long as it takes to achieve our national goals and objectives.

The Army chief said the Indian troops are maintaining a high level of alertness all along the LAC and not just in Ladakh.

“Our operational preparedness is of a very high order and the morale of the troops is high. Whatever has transpired in the last year has highlighted the need for us to restructure and for us to enhance our capability,” he added.

Asked about the actual situation in eastern Ladakh, Gen Naravane said it remains the same that was prevailing last year, and there has been no change in status quo.

To another question on the same issue, he said the situation remains the same whatever existed earlier.

India and China are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 5 last year.

Referring to the overall security challenges facing India, he said Pakistan and China together form a potent threat to national security.

“There is no doubt that Pakistan and China together form a very potent threat and there is an aspect of collusivity which cannot be wished away. That is also very much part of our strategic planning and calculus when we are formulating our plans,” he said.

Gen Naravane said there has been an increasing cooperation between China and Pakistan in both military and non-military sectors and the possibility of a two-front threat is something India should be prepared for.

When queried on China’s mobilisation of troops in May last year, the Army chief said it was not new as they came to the region for training and India was monitoring them. However, he added the Chinese Army had the “first mover advantage”.

“We had the first mover advantage in August as they did not know we would surprise them,” he said, in an apparent reference to Indian Army capturing a number of strategic heights along the Pangong lake in August last year.

Gen Naravane also said China has withdrawn some troops from depth areas on conclusion of training and noted there is no reduction in deployment of personnel at the frontline.

“Every year PLA (People’s Liberation Army) troops come to traditional training areas for training. With the onset of winters and completion of the training period, the training areas have been vacated and since these training areas have been vacated, it is fair to assume that those troops who were in depth areas on the Tibetan Plateau have gone back to their garrison,” he added.

“However there is no decrease in strength either on their side or on our side as far as friction points are concerned.”

On Pakistan, Gen Naravane said the country continues to use “terrorism” as an instrument of state policy and India will continue to confront the menace effectively.

“Pakistan continues to embrace terrorism as an instrument of state policy. However, we are very clear that we have zero-tolerance for terror and we reserve our right to respond at a time and place of our own choosing and with precision. This is a clear message that we have sent across,” he added.

Gen Naravane said the Army is carrying out restructuring with an aim to transform it from manpower-driven force to technology-intensive force, adding it is looking at application of high-end technologies like big data, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

He also said the Army is fully committed to tri-services jointness and proposals on having integrated commands.

BRO Launches Op ‘Himank’ For Troop Movement

Meanwhile the Border Roads Organisation has launched a special snow-clearing operation to keep strategic roads and passes open for troop movement amid the tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), officials said, as the force’s personnel brave freezing temperatures and intimidating altitudes to keep communication lines opened.

BRO officials said the organisation has launched project ‘Himank’ to undertake the arduous and daunting task of keeping the strategically important roads along the LAC open even though that meant maneuvering some of the highest mountain passes in the world and working in temperatures going down to minus 35 degrees Celsius.

“Winter snow clearance task this year has been particularly more challenging considering the altitude, extreme weather and the heavy deployment of the troops along the LAC,” a senior BRO official said.

Officials said that BRO personnel deployed at altitudes ranging from 16,500-18,000 feet are relentlessly executing the winter snow-clearance.

They said the strategically important road axes and prominent mountain passes where the snow-clearance operations are carried out include Chang la, Warila, Marshimikla , Kajukondla, Kassangla, Umlingla, besides the Durbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beig Oldie Road.

During the winters, the only existing road axis connecting DBO in Sub Sector North, Hot Spring and Chushul in Eastern Ladakh, and gateway to Changthang Sector of Ladakh (via Changhla and Warila passes) gets blocked due to heavy accumulation of snow.

Officials said that to provide sustenance to troops deployed in these areas amid the tension with China, road construction companies are working tirelessly to keep the roads open and ensure connectivity all through the winter.

“To keep the roads open, meticulous planning and resources mobilisation were undertaken and adequate advance winter stocking including that of equipment spares and winter diesel was done,” one of them said.

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