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Army Chief visits eastern Ladakh, Siachen; takes stock of security preparedness

NEW DELHI (PTI): Army Chief Gen MM Naravane on Wednesday visited various high-altitude forward areas in eastern Ladakh and Siachen and reviewed India's overall military preparedness in the strategically-sensitive sectors.

His visit to eastern Ladakh came amid a stalemate in military talks between India and China in moving forward towards the disengagement of troops in several friction points like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang in the region.

"Gen MM Naravane visited Siachen and eastern Ladakh and reviewed the operational preparedness," the Indian Army said in a statement.

"The Chief of Army Staff also interacted with the troops and complimented them for their steadfastness and high morale, while being deployed in some of the harshest terrain, altitude and weather conditions," it said.

Gen Naravane was accompanied by Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander of the Northern Command; and Lt Gen PGK Menon, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Leh-based Fire and Fury Corps.

The Fire and Fury Corps is responsible for guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Ladakh region.

The Army Chief was later briefed by Lt Gen Menon on the prevailing security situation and operational preparedness in the region, sources said.

He is scheduled to return to the national capital on Wednesday.

India and China were locked in a military stand-off at multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh since early May last year but they have completed withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.

The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points.

There was no visible forward movement in disengagement of troops in the remaining friction points as the Chinese side did not show flexibility in their approach on it at the 11th round of military talks with the Indian Army on April 9.

Following the talks, the Indian Army said both sides held a detailed deliberation on disengagement in remaining areas and agreed to jointly maintain stability on the ground, avoid any new incidents and resolve the outstanding issues in an "expeditious manner".

Sources had said that the Chinese delegation came to the talks with a "premeditated mindset" and did not show any flexibility in moving forward on the disengagement process in remaining friction points.

Last month, the Army Chief said that the threat to India has only "abated" following the disengagement in Pangong lake areas after the agreement with China but it has not gone away altogether.

He had also said that the military strength in rear areas remained what it was even at the height of border tensions.

Gen Naravane's visit to Siachen came two days after two army soldiers were killed in an avalanche in the high-altitude region.

The Siachen glacier at a height of around 20,000 ft in the Karakoram range is known as the highest militarised zone in the world where the soldiers have to battle frostbite and high winds.

Avalanches and landslides are common at the glacier and temperatures can drop to as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.

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