Army, IAF chiefs visit forward areas as China moves more forces near Chushul

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NEW DELHI: China has moved additional forces opposite the

Chushul sector


eastern Ladakh

after a large number of well-armed Indian troops occupied virtually all the dominating heights from Thakung to Reqin La over the weekend to pre-empt any misadventure by Chinese soldiers.
“The situation all along the LAC is tense, with heavy deployments by both sides. But it’s like a tinderbox in eastern Ladakh,” a senior officer said.
With thousands of rival troops, tanks, armoured vehicles and howitzers ranged against each other, Army chief

General M M Naravane

visited the Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh on Thursday.
Gen Naravane took stock of the situation with Northern Command chief Lt-General Y K Joshi and 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh, among others. He will also visit some other forward areas to the north in the region on Friday morning before returning to New Delhi.

In a parallel development underlining the heightened tensions along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to

Arunachal Pradesh

, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria visited frontline airbases in the eastern sector, including Hashimara, to review military preparedness on Wednesday.
Wary of any inadvertent incident making things spiral out of control, both India and China are keeping the military lines of communication open. The meeting between rival brigadiers at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point was held for the fourth day running on Thursday. The meeting, however, was yet again inconclusive.
China is seething at the way India conducted the military manoeuvre to occupy multiple heights near the southern bank of Pangong Tso, Spanggur Gap, Rezang La and Reqin La (Renchin mountain pass) at altitudes over 15,000 feet on August 29-30.
“The People’s Liberation Army (


) was taken by complete surprise. It has moved additional forces opposite the Chushul sector in a show of force. But we are well-entrenched and well-prepared there, as elsewhere in eastern Ladakh,” another officer said.
The PLA’s Moldo military garrison as well as a crucial road leading up to the southern bank of Pangong Tso are now clearly in the line of sight of Indian soldiers on the Chushul heights, which were largely left unoccupied since the 1962 war due to overlapping claims of the LAC in the area.
“But it cannot be business as usual now,” the officer said. The proactive move represents a distinct change in India’s operational stance against China’s salami-slicing strategy along the disputed LAC.
It has effectively prevented the PLA from yet again presenting the

Indian Army

with a fait accompli, like it did by occupying the 8-km stretch from ‘Finger-4 to 8’ (mountainous spurs) on the north bank of Pangong Tso, much to India’s disquiet in early May.
“Chinese soldiers gained tactical advantage in the ‘Finger’ area. They have flatly refused to withdraw eastwards to their permanent Sirijap locations beyond Finger-8. Now, they are faced with a tit-for-tat situation in the area to the south of Pangong Tso,” the officer said.
It also constitutes leverage to get China to shed its continuing intransigence during the multiple rounds of diplomatic and military talks to take forward the stalled troop disengagement on the northern bank of Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs areas as well as the de-escalation in the Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldie sector.

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