Highest level of operational preparedness being maintained at northern border: Army Chief


New Delhi, Jan 12 (UNI) There have been 'positive developments' along both northern and western border since last January, Army Chief General MM Naravane said on Wednesday, adding that the Army continues to maintain the highest level of operational preparedness at the northern border.

"If you recall the situation last January, I think we can say since there have been positive development both along our northern and western borders," General Naravane said at the annual press conference ahead of the Army Day.

"On the northern border we have continued to maintain the highest level of operation preparedness while at the same time engaging with PLA through dialogue. After persistent joint efforts, mutual disengagement has occurred at many locations," he said.

The Army Chief however added, "While we say that, there has been partial disengagement, threat has by no means been reduced and the force levels are more or less the same and from our side they have been enhanced."

General Naravane said the Army today is better prepared along the northern border, and is ready to meet any challenge. He also talked about the 14th round of talks between Military commanders of both sides which were on as he addressed the press, and said it showed both sides can resolve issues through dialogue.

"As we speak the 14th round of the Corp Commander level talks are underway and I am hopeful that you should see further development in the days ahead," he said.

"While we say that, there has been partial disengagement, threat has by no means been reduced and the force levels are more or less the same and from our side they have been enhanced," he said.

He said India has enhanced its resources along the northern border, to cater to the major augmentation that has taken place in the PLA's forces and infrastructure on the Chinese side.

"While we continue to deal with the PLA in a firm and resolute manner, necessary safeguards are in place to take care of any contingency. Upgradation and development of infrastructure along the northern border is also being carried out in a holistic manner," he said.

The Army Chief said infrastructure has been created for "as many as 25,000 additional troops that have gone into that area."

He also said that the Army's response to the Chinese attempts to unilaterally change the status quo was very robust "and we were able to thwart this design".

"We are much better prepared to meet any situation that may arise in the future," he said.

Commenting on the ongoing military talks, he said, "The 4th and 5th rounds resulted in resolving the issue at PP 14. Thereafter a number of other rounds took place and by 9th and 10th round we were able to resolve the issues in the north and south bank of the Pangong Tso, as also the Kailash ranges. Thereafter with another couple of rounds we were able to resolve the issue at PP 17. "

"A number of rounds of talks take place, to expect every round will have an outcome is also unreasonable. Number of rounds will be required to resolve issues one at a time. We are hopeful to resolve the issues at PP 17, and correction at PP 15 which is pending as of now. Then we will go to other issues that predate the current standoff," he said.

The Army Chief stressed that the situation was "under control" along the northern border. Asked about possibility of escalation, he said, "Whether the situation escalates or not, is very difficult to say. We are ready to meet any situation that comes. Conflict is always the last resort, but if resorted to, we will come out victorious".

The standoff between India and China in Ladakh began in May 2020, when Chinese troops tried to unilaterally alter the LAC in Eastern Ladakh sector, where the border is not clearly demarcated.

The Chinese action led to eyeball-to-eyeball situation, especially in Depsang, Pangong Lake, Gogra Hills and Hot Springs areas, as India mobilised troops to match Chinese military buildup to thwart the designs of the adversary.

The subsequent rounds of talks resulted in disengagement in Pangong Lake and Gogra areas.

However, the standoff continues in some other areas.