NEW DELHI: Army chief General Manoj Pande on Thursday reached Leh on a three-day visit to the sensitive Ladakh sector, and was briefed on the security situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at a time when the lingering border standoff in eastern Ladakh is in its third year, and a full resolution is still not in sight even though the two sides have had partial success in disengaging rival soldiers from some friction areas.
This is his first outstation visit after taking over the reins of the Indian Army on April 30 from General Manoj Mukund Naravane.
“The army chief was briefed on the security situation along the borders with special focus on eastern Ladakh. The high level of operational readiness being maintained by the forces while maintaining a high tempo of capability development was highlighted,” the army said in a statement.
Talks between India and China are on to end the deadlock that has cast a shadow over the bilateral relationship.
“During his three-day visit to Ladakh, the army chief will visit forward areas in eastern Ladakh and interact with troops deployed along LAC, in the most difficult and inhospitable terrain in the world,” the army added.
The two countries have been locked in a border row since April-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.
General Pande’s visit to Ladakh within days of taking over as army chief reflects his priorities both in terms of the army’s operational readiness and the well-being of soldiers deployed in challenging conditions, said former director general of military operations Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd). “The visit will act as a morale booster for our soldiers,” he added.
Earlier this week, General Pande said that the Indian Army aimed to “re-establish trust and tranquility” with PLA, but cautioned that “it can’t be a one-way affair.” He also questioned China’s intention behind dragging out the process to arrive at a framework that will provide the basis for the delineation and demarcation of the larger boundary between the two countries, or what is known as the boundary question.
Pande said the army’s “aim and intention” was to restore the status quo ante of April 2020, adding that the army’s posture along LAC was robust, and adequate forces were available to deal with any contingency. He said Indian soldiers were holding important positions, and their posture was “firm and resolute” to prevent any attempt by PLA to alter the status quo.