Indian and Chinese armies were at the weekend found moving in heavy weapons including artillery guns , mortars and combat vehicles from their rear bases close to the disputed areas in eastern Ladakh.
This after border talks between local commanders failed to defuse tensions as the two armies remained locked in a bitter eyeball-to-eyeball face-off on the disputed border for more than 25 days, military officials said on Sunday.
The beefing up of combat muscle by the two armies in Eastern Ladakh came after both countries failed to achieve a breakthrough to resolve the dispute through talks at military and diplomatic levels.
The Chinese army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment, Indian military sources said.
The Indian Army is also moving in ‘substantial reinforcements including heavy mortars and artillery guns to aggressively match the Chinese build-up.
A senior officer told Easternlink Indian army will not relent till status quo is restored in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley and a number of other areas, where Chinese have intruded.
‘ We will match them muscle for muscle, no quarters given ,” he said. ” We know the games they play , we will match up . Our boys are in high spirits.”
The Indian Air Force has been flying surveillance sorties in the disputed region.
A sizeable number of Chinese army personnel intruded into the Indian side of the de-facto border earlier this month at Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley and since then have pitched tents there.
The Indian Army fiercely objected to the transgressions by the Chinese troops and demanded their immediate withdrawal for restoration of peace and tranquility in the area.
The two sides have often clashed and the senior officer, on condition of anonymity , claimed Indian trops had the better of hand-to-hand encounters.
The Chinese army has bosted up its presence in Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie too – the two sensitive areas with a history of skirmishes involving the two sides.
The Chinese army is learnt to have deployed around 2,500 troops in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley besides gradually enhancing defence infrastructure and weaponry. However, there is no official figure about the numbers.
Sources said satellite images have captured significant boost to defence infrastructure by China on its side of the de-facto border including construction activities at a military airbase around 180 km from the Pangong Tso area.
The assessment by the Indian Army is that the build up is aimed at mounting pressure on India.
“We are well aware of the Chinese ploy. The Indian Army is firm on its stand that we are not going to accept anything less than restoration of status quo in the area,” said the senior military official.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said bilateral talks were on at military and diplomatic levels with China to resolve the row. ” But we will not accept humiliation to resolve the crisis,” he said.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India constructing a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The sources said China was also laying a road in the Finger area which is not acceptable to India.
The situation in eastern Ladakh worsened after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent brawl on the evening of May 5 which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to “disengage”.
However, the face off did not end.
The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9.
This stand-off is the worse since the Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklamtri-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.
Liu Xuanzun of ‘Global Times’ adds:
The Chinese military has expanded its arsenal with weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter and GJ-2 drone that should give China the advantage in high-altitude conflicts should they arise.
Quoting Chinese analysts on Sunday, he said the new Type 15 tank which made its public debut at the National Day military parade on October 1 last year has bern drployrd in the High Himalayas.
With a powerful engine, the Type 15 lightweight main battle tank can effectively operate in plateau regions difficult for heavier tanks.
With its advanced fire control systems and 105 millimeter caliber armor-piercing main gun, it can outgun any other light armored vehicles at high elevations, the experts told the Global Times on Sunday.
China’s most advanced vehicle-mounted howitzer, the PCL-181, that also debuted at the parade, has also bern moved in.
At 25 tons, the PCL-181 is lighter, faster and can endure longer than the previous 40-ton self-propelled howitzer on crawler tracks.
It can digitally deploy its gun at the press of a button, with automatic calibration and semi-automatic reloading.
Both the Type 15 tank and the PCL-181 howitzer were displayed in the high-elevation plateau region of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in a China Central Television report on military exercises in January.
Another new weapon which debuted at the parade was a multiple-rocket launcher system, which uses an 8×8 wheeled high-mobility chassis and carries two sets of four 370-millimeter rockets, making it viable for high-altitude deployment, according to publicly available reports.
In the air, China unveiled the Z-20 utility helicopter at the parade. This medium-lift helicopter can adapt to all kinds of terrain and weather and can be used on missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue and reconnaissance.
The Z-20 can operate in oxygen-depleted plateaus thanks to its powerful homemade engine, Chen Guang, vice general manager of Avicopter, the helicopter branch of Aviation Industry Corporation of China that developed the helicopter, told the Global Times previously.
Joining the Z-20 is the modified Z-8G large transport helicopter displayed at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition held in Tianjin in October.
Focusing on plateau operations, the Z-8G is the first of its kind in China and can take off from 4,500 meters above sea level with a ceiling higher than 6,000 meters.
At Airshow China 2018, the Chinese Air Force unveiled the GJ-2 armed reconnaissance drone, which has a higher ceiling and can carry more payload than the previous GJ-1. Reports said it can be used to patrol the long border in high-altitude areas like Tibet.
These specially designed weapons have boosted the Chinese military’s combat capabilities in high-altitude regions, enabling it to better safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Chinese analysts.