NEW DELHI: India has further cranked up its operational military readiness all along the ‘northern borders’ after initially being caught off-guard by the well-planned multiple intrusions by
early last month, even though hectic negotiations at Lt-General levels are on to defuse the major troop confrontation in eastern Ladakh.
Sources on Thursday said all Army units and IAF airbases geared towards the three sectors of the unresolved 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) — western (Ladakh), middle (
, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) — are “fully activated” in response to the major PLA military build-up in different places along the border.
“A close watch is being kept to cater for any contingency, including more muscleflexing by China in some new sectors. Nothing is being left to chance,” a source said.
The forward border management posture of our troops from Ladakh to Arunachal will be maintained as long as the PLA does not withdraw its forces from close to the LAC,” a source said. The 33 Corps (headquarters at Sukna in
) in the eastern sector, for instance, has moved forward its units under the 17 (Gangtok), 27 (Kalimpong) and 20 (Binnaguri) Mountain Divisions (each division has 10,000-12,000 soldiers) to their ‘operational alert areas’ much ahead of their yearly schedule.
This came after Indian ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms detected the “abnormal” PLA military build-up just before the rival troop confrontations erupted in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley region and Gogra-Hot Springs area in eastern Ladakh as well as the Naku La sector in north Sikkim in early-May.
Concurrently, the Army also inducted several additional battalions, along with artillery guns and other heavy weapon systems, into Ladakh to back the Leh-based 3 Infantry Division there, as was first reported by TOI last month. But with another set of meetings slated between local commanders in eastern Ladakh over the next few days, India remains hopeful of restoration of status quo ante with PLA troops withdrawing from the face-off sites in Indi an territory and de-inducting the military build-up in their own territory.
A little bit of disengagement has already taken place in the Galwan Valley and Gogra-Hot Springs areas, with a mutual troop pull-back of around 1-2 km at the confrontation sites there, after the June 6 meeting between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin. But there is still a long way to go before there is actual deescalation on the ground. Pangong Tso, for instance, remains a bone of contention.
All Indian patrols going west to east from ‘Finger-4 to 8’ (mountainous spurs separated by a distance of 8 km) have been blocked by the PLA since early-May. Indian soldiers for long have patrolled till the Finger-8 area, where the LAC runs north to south, as was reported by TOI earlier.
“Military talks are underway for a reciprocal and sequential withdrawal and deinduction of forces. But it’s likely to take time. We don’t visualise much difficulty in Galwan and Hot Springs, but Pangong Tso will be tough,” the source said.