India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Sunday made it clear that India is open to opt for a military option to tackle the transgressions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, General Rawat said the option will be exercised only if all talks between the two armies and the diplomatic option fail to yield results.
“Whole of government approach is adopted to peacefully resolve any such activity and prevent intrusions. Defence services always remain prepared for military actions should all efforts to restore status quo along the LAC do not succeed,” General Rawat told Hindustan Times.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are reviewing all options to restore status quo ante in Ladakh, he said.
India and China have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks in the last two-and-half months but no significant headway has been made for a resolution to the border row in eastern Ladakh. On Thursday, the two sides held another round of diplomatic talks following which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said they had agreed to resolve outstanding issues in an "expeditious manner" and in accordance with the existing agreements and protocols.
However, sources said the meeting could not produce any significant outcome. The formal process of disengagement of troops began on July 6, a day after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tensions in the area. However, the process has not moved forward since mid-July.
Government sources had on Friday said that Chinese military is not serious about resolution of the border standoff in eastern Ladakh and it is faced with an "unanticipated" consequence for its "misadventure" due to a strong response by the Indian Army.
The sources said there has been a stalemate in the military talks as the Indian Army was strongly insisting that the Chinese PLA must restore status quo ante of April this year to resolve the over three-month-old border standoff.
The Indian Army has clearly stated to China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) that "shifting" of the Line of Actual Control(LAC) is not acceptable to it, the sources said, adding the Chinese military is now desperately attempting to give "ex post facto strategic meaning" to its actions in eastern Ladakh. "Due to the strong response of Indian Army, the PLA is faced with unanticipated and unintended consequences of its misadventure," said a source, adding it is looking for a "face-saving exit strategy".
The PLA has pulled back from Galwan Valley and certain other friction points but the withdrawal of troops has not moved forward in Pangong Tso, Depsang and a couple of other areas, sources said. In the five rounds of Corps commander-level talks, the Indian side has been insisting on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April.
Even as both sides are engaged in diplomatic and military talks, the Indian army is making elaborate preparations to maintain its current strength of troops in all key areas in eastern Ladakh in the harsh winter months. Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane has already conveyed to all the senior commanders of the Army, overseeing operation of the frontline formations along the LAC, to maintain a significantly high state of alertness to deal with any Chinese "misadventure", the sources said.
The Army is also in the process of procuring a number of weapons, ammunition and winter gears for the frontline troops, they added. The temperature in some of the high-altitude areas along the LAC drops to minus 25 degree celsius in the winter months. The tension between the two sides escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.