The first signs of an easing off the face-off in Ladakh have emerged with the Chinese PLA seemingly wrapping up tents and pulling back their heavy armour in at least two of the five to six intrusion points.
Highly placed officials said both these areas where the PLA seem to be pulling back were in the Galwan Valley area . In other intrusion points also, the PLA has become less active compared to the last ten days .
But these officials said that though the Indian Army might have stare down the PLA by firmly sticking to their positions, there was ‘no room for complacency’.
“The Chinese could pull out of an area where we have stared them down by confronting them in strength, but they might jolly well go and pitch these somewhere else across the LAC to create a fresh problem for us. We just cannot relax the vigil,” said a senior officer here.
These pullbacks, he said, followed a ‘fairly amicable dialogue ‘ between senior commanders at the level of brigadiers on both sides on Monday. A follow-up meeting is scheduled between division commanders of major-general rank from both sides.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has also said efforts are on to resolve the border row in eastern Ladakh.
“I want to assure the country that we will not allow India’s pride to be hurt under any circumstances. India has been following a clear policy of maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries and it is not a new approach; We have been following it for long. At times, a situation arises with China. It has happened before,” he said.
Singh referred to the 2017 Doklam episode , saying the situation then too appeared “very tense”. “But we did not step back. Ultimately, we were able to resolve the situation.”
The Defence Minister noted that China has also said that it wants to resolve the border issue in eastern Ladakh through diplomatic dialogue and that transgressions take place due to varying perception about the Line of Actual Control by the two sides.
“It has been India’s efforts to ensure that the tension does not escalate. It should be resolved through talks at military and diplomatic levels. Negotiations are ongoing between the two countries at the military and diplomatic levels,” he said.
Officials in the military engineering group, Border Roads Organisation, said that 11 special trains have been sought from the Railways to move workers from Jharkhand to Jammu and Chandigarh from where they will be taken to areas close to the China border for building roads.
“There is no question of halting work on the road projects because of the standoff that could go on for weeks. The working season has begun and we cannot waste time,” said a BRO official
He said some work has already started on the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldie road in Ladakh.
The BRO official said they plan to transport 11,815 workers by 11 trains, after which they be driven in trucks to border areas in Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is constructing important roads.
The Union home ministry asked the railway ministry on May 22 to arrange the special trains from Jharkhand to Jammu and Chandigarh. But the effort has run into rough weather when the Jharkhand’s BJP government cancelled the permission earlier granted to the BRO to hold a recruitment rally at Dumka in May for picking up workers for the infrastructure works in Ladakh and other frontier regions.
The Soren government has cited the Covid pandemic as the cause for cancelling the permission on 29 May by a letter written to Saurabh Bhatnagar, director (planning) of BRO’s Vijayak Pariyojana.
It is not clear how the Chinese would react when hordes of additional workers turn up at construction sites because India’s ‘catch-up-with-China’ infrastructure building efforts constitutes the most important source of ire for the Chinese.
But retired major-general Gaganjit Singh, with long experience as a field commander on the China border and also in defence intelligence, says “the intrusions this time have been deep and I cannot understand how could the Chinese be allowed to come this far.”
“When you deal with the Chinese , you need to be very tough but also very clever. I am not yet willing to say they will back off easily but the Chinese will finally pull back if we maintain sufficient, appropriate and relentless pressure,” Gaganjit Singh told Easternlink.
“We should tell them clearly we dont intend to change the status quo on the LAC, but insist they should also not do that and revert to pre-April positions,” he said.