Ladakh: Army chief visits Leh amid rising tensions with China along LAC

At least five rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese troops this week have failed to de-escalate tension in Pangong Tso lake and Galwan Valley in Ladakh as they maintained aggressive posturing

Line of Actual Control, LAC, Ladakh, China, Doklam, India, Army chief
The Army chief held a meeting with the top military chief Commanders in Leh, including Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General YK Joshi and 14 Corps Chief Lieutenant General Harinder Singh. File Photo: PTI

Army Chief General MM Naravane visited Leh on Friday (May 22) to review methods to ease the ongoing tensions with China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

The Army chief held a meeting with the top military chief Commanders in Leh, including Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General YK Joshi and 14 Corps Chief Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, news agency ANI reported.

At least five rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese troops this week have failed to de-escalate tension in Pangong Tso lake and Galwan Valley in Ladakh as the two sides maintained aggressive posturing in the disputed border areas, government sources said.

The Indian Army has been matching up to the Chinese build up in both Pangong Tso lake and Galwan Valley, the two locations in Ladakh which have witnessed major reinforcement of troops in the last two weeks, sources said.

There was very little chance of easing of tension anytime soon as both sides are aggressively holding onto their respective positions, they said.

It is learnt that diplomatic channels are also working overtime to bring down the tension between the two armies which was triggered by China’s objection to laying of a road by India in Galwan Valley.

Related news: India-China stand-off along Sikkim border resolved after talks

The two sides have significantly bolstered their presence along the un-demarcated border in Eastern Ladakh after they were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 which was followed by a similar incident in North Sikkim on May 9.

Local commanders of the two armies will continue talks till a resolution is found, the sources said.

In the midst of escalating tension, India on Thursday said Chinese military was hindering normal patrolling by its troops and asserted that India has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management.

At a media briefing, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava also strongly refuted China’s contention that the tension was triggered by trespassing of Indian forces across the Chinese side.

India’s response came two days after China accused the Indian Army of trespassing into its territory, claiming that it was an “attempt to unilaterally change the status” of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Sikkim and Ladakh. The LAC is the de-facto border between the two countries.

Pangong Tso lake and Galwan Valley, several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim too witnessed major military build-up by both the sides.

The sources said the Chinese side has erected at least 40-50 tents in the Galwan Valley following which India has also sent reinforcements.

On May 5, around 250 Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries.

In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.

Related news: Amid tension on Ladakh LAC, China claims its troops patrolling on their side

The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017 which even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.

Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

China has been critical of Indias reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, and has particularly criticised New Delhi for making Ladakh a union territory. China lays claim over several parts of Ladakh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first informal summit in April 2018 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, months after the Doklam standoff.

In the summit, the two leaders decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications so that they can build trust and understanding Modi and Xi held their second informal summit in Mamallapuram near Chennai in October last year with a focus on further broadening bilateral ties.

(With inputs from agencies)

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