Disengagement of Indian and Chinese forces is taking place in a “phased manner” along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), where the situation is “under control,” Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Saturday.
His first comments on the disengagement that began after top Indian and Chinese military commanders met last week came during an interaction with reporters on the sidelines of the passing out parade at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
“I would like to assure everyone that the situation along our border with China is under control,” said Naravane even as India and China continue diplomatic and military engagements for an early resolution of the stand-off between border troops.
The army chief said: “Both sides are disengaging in a phased manner. We have started from the north, from the area of the Galwan river, where a lot of disengagement has taken place”. Naravane’s comments are significant as the government has largely been tight-lipped on the ongoing border scrap with China.
“It’s good that diplomatic and military engagement is working and things are showing signs of improving,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd).
The Udhampur-based Northern Command is responsible for guarding the LAC in the northern sector.
Army delegations from India and China, led by major general-rank officers, on Friday held discussions in eastern Ladakh to resolve the stand-off between the border troops. This was the fifth meeting between the two major generals to break the stalemate that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols near Pangong Tso on the night of May 5.
Naravane said: “We have had a series of talks which started on June 6 followed up by a number of meetings at the local level between commanders of equivalent ranks. As a result, a lot of disengagement has taken place in the region and we are hopeful that through the continued dialogue, the perceived differences between us would be put to rest.”
The disengagement began after a meeting between Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the People’s Liberation Army in South Xinjiang region, on June 6.
Last week, the two sides began what Indian officials described as a “limited military disengagement” at three hot spots along the LAC – Galwan Valley, Patrolling Point 15 and Hot Springs.
The focus is now on resolving the situation on the northern bank of Pangong Tso, which has been at the centre of the ongoing border scrap and where troops are still locked in a face-off. The army chief, however, didn’t comment on the tense stand-off at Pangong Tso.
Last month’s violent confrontations between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh and north Sikkim triggered a military build-up on both sides of the LAC that stretched from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, as reported by Hindustan Times on Friday.
The Chinese build-up began immediately after clashes between border troops in Ladakh and Sikkim on May 5-6 and May 9, and predated the June 6 meeting between Lieutenant General Singh and his Chinese counterpart at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC.
While the specifics of the Chinese buildup in other sectors remain unclear, their deployment in areas across the LAC in Ladakh includes more than 8,000 troops, tanks, artillery guns, fighter bombers, rocket forces and air defence radars.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh was on Friday briefed on the ongoing border scrap and the status of the military-level dialogue to resolve it at a meeting with chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and the service chiefs.