NEW DELHI: India is determined to impose costs on Chinese troops if they attempt any further misadventure on the border, officials said on Sunday after defence minister Rajnath Singh reviewed operational readiness along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the military brass here.
The armed forces have been given “full freedom” to respond in an “adequate and proportionate manner” to any hostile act in accordance with their judgement. “They have been told not to start a fight, but also not to hold back in the event of any ground intrusion or breach of airspace. The Army, Navy and IAF reported satisfactory levels of preparedness and high operational alertness along the LAC,” an official said.
The hour-long meeting chaired by Singh, who is slated to leave for Moscow on Monday, was attended by chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and the three Service chiefs, General M M Naravane, Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
The decisive shift away from the long-standing border management policy to largely maintain “peace and tranquillity” on the LAC gives the military commanders on the ground the leeway to undertake whatever action is required to foil any misadventure by the PLA.
“This obviously includes freedom to the commanders to order troops to open fire in the face of extreme provocation and extraordinary situations like the one near PP-14 on June 15,” the official said. TOI has previously reported that the Army would no longer allow “walk-in” intrusions along the LAC.
Sources said diplomatic talks are likely to be held with China in the coming week in a bid to break the military stalemate on the ground. A second meeting between 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin is also on the cards, on the lines of the one they held at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point in eastern Ladakh on June 6.
This week, MEA joint secretary in charge of China, Naveen Srivastava, will hold a second virtual conference with his counterpart in Beijing to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. This will be the second conversation between Srivastava and Wu Jianghao, director general in the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs after June 5.
With both India and China having amassed troops and heavy weapons all along the 3,488-km LAC, and no signs of any de-escalation in the troop confrontations in eastern Ladakh, “a high-level politico-diplomatic intervention may be required due to the continuing deadlock”, another official said.
TOI was the first to report on June 18 that the bloody skirmish near ‘Patrolling Point-14 (PP-14)’ in the Galwan Valley region of eastern Ladakh, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and 76 injured on June 15, had led India to decide that “costs” would now be imposed on the PLA if it tries with its old tactics of incrementally grabbing territory.
Though the Indian Army is in control of the area near PP-14, PLA’s occupation of ‘Finger-4 to 8’ (mountainous spurs separated by a distance of 8 km) area on the north bank of Pangong Tso remains a major area of concern.
The PLA has built fortifications and taken control of the heights to block all Indian patrols west to east from ‘Finger-4’ to ‘Finger-8’ area, where the LAC runs north to south, since early last month.