The armed forces are said to have been given a free hand to assess the situation on the ground along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and take appropriate action as required in case of any escalation from the other side, a defence source on Sunday. This was conveyed during a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with the Chief of Defence Staff and the three Service Chiefs.
“The situation along the LAC and preparedness of the armed forces was reviewed at the meeting. Forces have a free hand to assess the situation and to take action as required. While we don’t want escalation but if it happens by the other side, appropriate action will be taken. Clear cut instructions to this effect were given,” a defence source said on Sunday.
Mr. Singh held the meeting ahead of his scheduled departure to Russia on Monday for participation in the 75th anniversary of World War-II.
The prevailing border situation is also expected to come up for discussion at Mr. Singh’s meetings in Moscow. The Minister will return on June 25. He will continue to closely monitor the situation during the trip, the source added.
Also read | China lays claim to entire Galwan Valley
The development comes in the backdrop of the violent clash in Galwan on Monday when Indian troops were attacked by Chinese troops with rods and stones, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar Col. B Santosh Babu.
As reported earlier, following the Galwan incident, it was learnt the Army revised its Rules of Engagement (RoE) for its ground commanders on the LAC. Use of firearms on the LAC is strictly regulated as per the border agreements of 1993, 1996 and 2005.
Alert on LAC
The Armed Forces have gone on full alert along the LAC following the clash. The IAF has forward deployed its frontline fighters including Su-30MKIs, Mig-29UPG and its latest acquisition the AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopter, meant to neutralise armoured formations, has been deployed in Leh. The CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters, too, have been deployed in this region. China has deployed artillery, armoured vehicles and tanks close to the LAC on its side.
It has been learnt that the Army, too, has moved additional divisions from Bareilly and other areas forward for acclamatisation. After the standoffs began on May 5, the Army had moved additional units for acclamatisation to prepare for high-altitude operations, which are now ready.
Eye on Indian Ocean
The Navy has also stepped up its operational alert and is closely monitoring movements in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
“Three of their (Chinese) ships are currently in the Indian Ocean as part of the last ATF (Anti-piracy Task Force). They are off the Gulf region for two weeks now. We are closely monitoring them,” a second defence source said.
China has steadily increased its presence in the IOR beginning 2008 in the name of anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. In 2017, it opened its first overseas bases at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
While there are no plans to move into the South China Sea, the Navy in the last few years has deployed at least one ship at all critical choke points in the IOR including the Malacca Strait at all times as part of its Mission Based Deployment.
“We are already present near Malacca and we can operate with the U.S. and other Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Navies if required, with whom our engagement has significantly gone up in recent years,” the second source said.
Indian Navy has over the years increased its engagement and interoperability with countries in the region including Australia, Japan and the U.S. and has also signed several maritime cooperation agreements and logistics support agreements.