Rajnath Singh discusses border situation with US def secyby Rajat Pandit
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (PTI)
NEW DELHI: India will need to firmly keep up its guard against China’s creeping cartographic aggression in eastern Ladakh, sources said on Friday, even as defence minister Rajnath Singh briefed his US counterpart Mark Esper about the ongoing confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops in the high-altitude region.
Sources said Singh told Esper, in a telephonic conversation initiated by the latter, India wanted to “resolve” the military face-off with China through “existing bilateral mechanisms” in accordance with laid-down protocols.
An official statement said Singh and Esper “exchanged views on regional developments of shared security interest (read China)”, apart from discussing the extensive defence cooperation between India and the US. “They expressed commitment to further promote the bilateral defence partnership,” it said.
This is the first high-level contact between New Delhi and Washington since People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers intruded around 1-3 km into what India considers to be its territory in the Galwan Valley region, northern bank of Pangong Tso and Demchok in eastern Ladakh.
Another round of talks between brigadier-level officers of India and China on Friday failed to break the deadlock with the two sides sticking to their respective stands. India wants the PLA soldiers to withdraw and restore the status quo, while China is pushing for India to stop its road and bridge construction activities near the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
With the three-day Army commanders conference coming to an end in New Delhi on Friday after a review of the overall security situation, sources said China was actively resorting to its “old strategy” of nibbling away territory in eastern Ladakh to consolidate its hold on Tibet. “The PLA, for instance, is now pushing its claim lines in the Galwan Valley region,” a source said.
“India has been caught on the wrong foot several times in the past. But it is no longer the India of 1962, or the 1980-1990s, when China got away with nibbling away at our territory. We have more than adequate forces as well as the requisite infrastructure in eastern Ladakh now,” he added.
But the battle of nerves remains tense. Neither side is willing to cede ground after strengthening their entrenched positions at the face-off sites, and backing them with thousands of additional soldiers, tanks and artillery guns in their own territories.