Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reviewed the current situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the ongoing standoff with China with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat and the three Service Chiefs, multiple sources said. The meeting comes a day before the biannual Army Commanders conference.
Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane made a detailed presentation on the standoff at various points of the LAC in eastern Ladakh, it has been learnt.
Several rounds of talks on the ground up to the level of Division Commanders have failed to break the impasse.
Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, at a meeting to review ongoing military reforms with the CDS, the three Service Chiefs and other officials of the Ministry, also discussed the situation along the LAC, sources said.
The meeting was to review the implementation of the recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee but the Ladakh standoff was discussed, sources said, without stating the specifics of the discussion.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied reports that Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla had been asked to brief the meeting as well. Thus far, the MEA has issued only one statement on the tensions at LAC, in which it said Chinese troops were “hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns”, and denied Chinese accusations.
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In contrast, in three separate sets of remarks last week, the Chinese MFA had accused Indian troops of “crossing the line” across Ladakh and Sikkim, of “infringement activities” and of “attempting to unilaterally change the status of border control.”
MEA officials have also said “established mechanisms” are in place to resolve the issue, indicating their relative silence on the issue is to enable talks between military commanders and diplomatic channels to proceed.
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However, sources on the ground have indicated that the situation on the ground is far more serious, with a faceoff between troops at atleast three points in Ladakh and Nakula Pass in Sikkim, increased numbers of Chinese troops at the LAC in areas where India patrols, including the Galwan river valley, and Chinese troops blocking Indian patrols in the finger areas on the Pangong Tso (lake).
Meanwhile, defence sources denied reports of a major buildup by Chinese troops across the LAC in Uttarakhand (also called the middle sector of the LAC), particularly in the Joshimath-Harsil area, where Indian troops have been moved to more forward positions. The sources said these were routine “local movements”.
In Delhi, the Chinese Embassy also denied reports that flights arranged to repatriate citizens were connected to the ongoing tensions at the LAC in any way.
“In consideration of the development of the epidemic situation in India, the Chinese side is planning to dispatch temporary flights to India to bring back students, tourists and business inspectors who are facing difficulties in India,” Embassy Spokesperson Ji Rong said.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper Global Times published an editorial cautioning against misreading the move. “China clearly has no intention of escalating the border disputes with India, so its assistance to its citizens should not be over-interpreted,” the editorial said.