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Top Army commanders begin deliberations on security challenges facing India

NEW DELHI (PTI): Top commanders of Indian Army on Wednesday carried out a comprehensive review of the situation in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a tense standoff for over three weeks in what is seen as the biggest military confrontation after the Doklam episode in 2017.

The commanders deliberated on the fast evolving situation in eastern Ladakh as well as in strategically key areas along the de-facto Sino-India border in Uttarakhand and Sikkim on the opening day of a three-day conference in New Delhi.

Military sources said Indian Army will continue to maintain its aggressive posturing in all disputed areas like Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh besides certain areas in Uttarakhand and North Sikkim.

In the deliberations, it was emphasised that Indian troops will not wilt under any Chinese pressure and would be ready for a long-haul to ensure status quo of the nearly 3,500-km-long Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border between the two countries.

The Army will continue to deal with the situation with firmness, a top military official told PTI on condition of anonymity.

The commanders' conference was originally scheduled to be held from April 13-18, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The biannual army commanders conference is held in April and October every year.

The second phase of the conference will take place in the last week of June.

The commanders are also expected to delve into the overall situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the main focus will remain on the situation in eastern Ladakh, the sources said.

Both India and China have significantly increased their presence in all sensitive areas in the region, in an indication that neither side is ready to back off.

The Chinese army is learnt to have deployed around 2,500 troops in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley besides gradually enhancing temporary infrastructure and weaponry.

The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on the evening of May 5 which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to "disengage" following a meeting at the level of local commanders.

Over 100 Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in the violence.

The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.

On the face-off in eastern Ladakh, India last week said that it has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management but the Chinese military was hindering normal patrolling by its troops.

It is learnt that both India and China are looking at a solution to the issue through talks.

On May 5, the Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries.

In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.

The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017 which even triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.

Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.

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