India sticks to border protocols, says Eastern Army Commander

The Indian army has observed some "infrastructure development" on Chinese side close to LAC, said Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Manoj Pande, adding this has led to more number of troops being located there now

ITBP personnel on the banks of Pangong Tso, in Ladakh. The extended standoff with China has driven India to step up its surveillance capabilities along the LAC, said the Eastern Army Commander in a media interaction. PTI Photo

India is standing by its commitment to mutually agreed upon protocols and agreements with China involving troop management along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but the situation may be reviewed at the strategic level in the future, General-Officer-Commanding, Eastern Command, Lt Gen Manoj Pande told reporters on Tuesday (October 19).

In terms of strategically dealing with the situation on the LAC, India respects the mutually agreed protocols and agreements, and that has been its efforts despite the kind of action or response from the other side. “Consequent to what happened and what we need to do in the future, is something I reckon is being looked at the larger level,” said Pande, further emphasising that  “it is being looked as to how should be our response” at the higher levels, said media reports.

Following the clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in June 2020, in which 20 Indian and at least four Chinese troops were killed, India had however allowed soldiers a free hand. This was however a major change in India’s approach in the light of the five agreements and protocols signed between the two countries since 1993, said an Indian Express report.

Pande was briefing reporters on the LAC situation in the east at the Rupa-headquartered HQs 5 Mountain Division. His comments on are being made against the backdrop of what had transpired during the 13th round of military talks in Ladakh between India and China held on October 10. In these talks, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had not agreed to the suggestions made by the Indian Army and the talks had ended in an impasse, said media reports.


The situation in the western sector of the India-China boundary, in eastern Ladakh, continues to remain problematic as China has stonewalled efforts to reach an agreement to disengage from Patrolling Point (PP) 15 in Hot Springs in this last Corps Commander-level meeting, said the IE report. China has also refused to discuss the issues at Depsang Plains, where Chinese troops were preventing India from gaining access to its patrolling limits and at Demchok some alleged civilians had pitched tents on the Indian side of the LAC.

However, Pande, as the Eastern Army Commander, who is responsible for 1,346 km LAC with China from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh, pointed out there has been just a marginal increase in patrolling by the PLA in certain sectors in the last year and a half from the time of the 17-month long standoff with China began in May 2020.

Also read: Amid India-China standoff at LAC, Army raises aviation brigade in Assam

There has been “no noticeable change in their patrolling pattern when talking of the entire eastern sector”, he stressed. The army has observed some “infrastructure development” on the Chinese side close to the LAC, in terms of essentially habitat, he said, adding that this has resulted in correspondingly more number of troops being located or placed there now.

Though he failed to address the issue of 200 PLA troops transgressing across the LAC near Yangtse in Tawang in late August, he said that “in terms of number of patrols coming close to the LAC from the other side, there has been only a marginal increase in activity vis-a-vis last couple of years.” However, both sides were trying to build infrastructure closer to the LAC and this again leads to certain issues at times, he admitted.

This infrastructure build-up close to the LAC has also caused a marginal increase in border defence troops, he pointed out.

According to the Hindustan Times report, China has ramped up the scale and duration of its military drills across the contested border in Arunachal Pradesh, after the standoff with India erupted along the LAC in the Ladakh sector. The reserve formations mobilised by the PLA last year are still deployed there, said the Eastern Army commander. Queried about China building border villages he said that it is a concern for them how China will use these villages for dual purposes – civil and military.

Stepping up surveillance

Pande also elaborated on how the extended standoff with China has driven India to step up its surveillance capabilities along the LAC. A surveillance center at Rupa in Arunachal Pradesh studies surveillance information acquired from unmanned aerial vehicles, radars, ground-based cameras with night vision and satellite imagery. This helps India to examine even the “depth areas:, he said.

He reiterated that the Army has embarked on a  “number of steps, and measures” , the foremost being to boost their surveillance, both close to the LAC as well as the depth areas.

Also read: Indian troops gear up as Ladakh de-escalation with China unlikely soon

With the focus on surveillance, he said that India has inducted a number of niche technologies and increased its capabilities through surveillance drone, long distance unarmed aerial surveillance vehicles, better surveillance radars, better communication systems and night vision ability.

Technological developments in mobility, long-range strike capability and other areas also demand we change the concept of war fighting and evolve new structures. “Integrated Battle Groupss are a logical step towards fighting and winning future wars,” he said.

Infrastructure development

Together with surveillance, India is also focussing on infrastructure development across the Eastern Command. Forward logistical bases and aviation bases were also being built, said Pande, adding that after what had happened in the last year and a half, it is something of a matter of concern to them, which has been articulated at different levels.

However, he added that from the point of view of the eastern commands, their preparation levels, their ability to respond, and cater for any contingencies are at a very high levels.

As for the country’s posture, in normal times at the LAC, the army’s posture, their protocols and agreements were meant to maintain peace and tranquility. Hence, from that perspective, the objective of India’s forward troops along the LAC is not to show aggression, as India believes friendly and cordial relations should be maintained.

Moreover, he added, if there is any need, India has to be adequately prepared and the country’s contingency plans are ready. “If the situation gets worse, to say whether we are aggressive or defensive, when we make plans, both are taken care of,” he said.

On the situation at Doklam, where India and China had been involved in a 73-day standoff in 2017, he said that both sides were fully aware of the sensitivities of each other. And added that “in terms of increase in troop levels, there hasn’t been a major increase” and the “infrastructure has remained what it was earlier”.