NEW DELHI: India wants to peacefully resolve the 20-month long troop confrontation in eastern Ladakh with China through dialogue but is militarily ready if a conflict is thrust on the country and will “emerge victorious” from it, Army chief General M M Naravane said on Wednesday.
Stressing that the overall “threat” along the entire 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) “has by no means reduced” despite “partial troop disengagement” in eastern Ladakh, Gen Naravane said the Indian Army will continue to deal with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in “a firm, resolute and peaceful manner to ensure sanctity of our claims”.
While expressing hope that the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh will be resolved through sustained dialogue, Gen Naravane said his force is also maintaining the “highest level of operational preparedness” after major augmentation of force-levels and infrastructure along the LAC to tackle any eventuality.
“Our capabilities have increased manifold in the last 18 months. We are now in a position to deal with whatever is thrown at us in the future. A conflict is always an instrument of last resort. But if resorted to, we will emerge victorious. There is no question that the status quo, as it exists today, can be altered through the use of force,” he said.
The Indian armed forces are also “more than adequately prepared” to deal with any military ramifications or fallout of China’s new land boundary law that seeks to formalize its claims along the LAC. “The law is not binding on us. It is neither legally tenable, nor in keeping with our bilateral agreements in the past. As such, we do not accept it,” Gen Naravane said.
The chief’s customary press conference ahead of the Army Day on January 15 coincided with the 14th round of corps commander talks between India and China at the Chushul-Moldo border in eastern Ladakh. There was no official word on the outcome of the marathon talks till late on Wednesday night.
India has been pressing China to restore the status quo as it existed in April 2020 before the PLA caught Indian forces off-guard by making multiple incursions into eastern Ladakh. But China has so far refused to complete even the stalled troop disengagement at Patrolling Point-15 (PP-15) in the Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongka La area, let alone discuss the more important Demchok and Depsang stand-offs.
The Army chief said the current focus was the PP-15 stand-off. “To expect an outcome at every round of talks is unreasonable. We are hopeful we will be able to soon resolve PP-15. Once that is done, we can go to the other issues (Depsang and Demchok) that pre-date the current stand-off,” he said.
Asked specifically by TOI if the LAC has turned into another Line of Control (with Pakistan) with permanent troop deployments, Gen Naravane said China’s amassing of large forces in eastern Ladakh was the “root-cause” of the current situation.
“Now that they (PLA) are there and have made a lot of infrastructure, it remains to be seen whether they will permanently station themselves there or whether they will be amenable to some kind of de-induction of troops in times to come,” he said.
Till the PLA follows the sequential process of disengagement, de-escalation and de-induction, “We will have to also remain there as well for as long as is required”, he added.
The Army, meanwhile, has “adequately enhanced” force-levels in areas where disengagement is yet to take place. “Threat assessment and internal deliberations have resulted in re-organisation and re-alignment of forces, in keeping with the Army’s mandate of ensuring territorial integrity, and to cater for the major augmentation of PLA forces, and military infrastructure,” said Gen Naravane.