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Army briefs Govt on military options on Chinese intrusion

Helicopters violate Indian airspace in Ladakh

LEH/NEW DELHI, Apr 24: With China sticking to its stand that its troops have not violated the Line of Actual Control, Army has told the Government about various military options that can be exercised to deal with the situation arising out of the intrusion in Ladakh.
The Army has given its inputs on the incursion by Chinese troops to the National Security Advisor-headed China Study Group which includes the Secretaries of the Ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs, Government sources said here.
The inputs given by the force are also about various options including using military aggressively in the situation, they said.
All the options suggested to the China Study Group are being looked at carefully and other stakeholders in the situation have also given their inputs, they said.
The China Study Group is handling the whole issue in consultation with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Defence Ministry.
The Army had rushed its troops from the 5 Ladakh Scouts battalion to the DBO area and they are camping there. The force is also considering the option of dispatching additional troops if the need arises.
On April 15, a platoon-strength contingent of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had come 10 km inside the Indian territory in Burthe in the DBO sector on the night of April 15 and established a tented post there.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing today that “the Chinese border troops have been acting in strict compliance with the bilateral agreements and conducting normal patrol on the Chinese side of the LAC.
“They have never crossed the line by a step,” she said.
Meanwhile, two Chinese military helicopters have violated Indian airspace at Chumar, several hundred kms southeast of Leh, adding to the prevailing tension.
The Chinese choppers entered the Indian airspace on April 21 and hovered over the area for quite sometime and returned after dropping some food cans, cigarette packets and notes written in their local language, official sources said today.
The incident happened five days after a platoon-strength contingent of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had come 10 km inside the Indian territory in Burthe in the DBO sector on the night of April 15 and established a tented post there.
Chumar, which is about 300 km from Leh, provides another access to Aksai Chin, an area which is under illegal occupation of China, besides from DBO.
After the incursion incident, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a border guarding force, has beefed up its strength in the area and Army from the nearby location had increased its surveillance.
Last September, Chinese helicopters flew over Chumar with some of its troops even getting onto the ground. The troops destroyed bunkers and old tents of the Indian Army before returning to their own air space.
The situation in the DBO sector, meanwhile, continued to remain tense with the PLA personnel, who have come with some dogs and vehicles, refusing to budge from the area.
DBO is a strategically important position from the Army’s point of view as this provides access to them in monitoring the activities of Chinese and Pakistani armies along the Karakoram Highway besides being an access point into Aksai Chin.
A General Officer in Command of an Army Division visited the area earlier this week to take stock of the situation, the sources said, adding an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was continuously monitoring the situation and sending pictures of the area.
During a Flag meeting yesterday at Chushul, China denied having made any incursion into the DBO area and refused to vacate the place.
While the Indian side represented by Brig B M Gupta made repeated appeals for maintaining the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Chinese side led by Senior Colonel Ayan Yanti raised objections to construction of bunkers by India at Phuktsey area, 60 km from Leh, and wanted the structures to be demolished.
The Chinese side maintained that the area where they have set up tented posts is part of their territory and denied any intrusion, sources said.
India asked the Chinese side at the meeting to withdraw from DBO, which is at an altitude of 17,000 feet, and revert to status quo as was before the incursion, the sources said.
The Chinese side also pointed out that the civilian and nomad activities in Chumar sector had grown manifold with large number of cattle grazing activity taking place in the area and asked the Indian Army to restrain civilians from moving to the loation.
Brig Gupta countered the Chinese view and pointed out to the construction activities and erection of a fence on the other side of Phuktsey and asked for an immediate halt to it.
The Chinese representative in his response said it was being done by the civilians and not by the Army and assured that the matter will be taken up with the Chinese civilian authorities so that the work can be stopped.
The Indian Army had sent a team of Ladakh Scouts–an Infantry regiment specialising in mountain warfare–to the DBO sector, manned by the troops of ITBP soon after the incursion was detected.
Details of the agreed position of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were also shared by both the sides.
Transgressions in the Ladakh sector have taken place earlier also due to differences in perception of the LAC. The Defence Ministry had earlier also maintained that the LAC is not properly demarcated in some areas.
ITBP troops have also established a camp approximately 300 m opposite the Chinese location and is monitoring the development.
India today said negotiations are in progress at “various levels” to resolve the incursion issue with China peacefully.
“Negotiations are going on at various levels to resolve the issue peacefully,” Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters at Bangalore.
“Our Government will take every step to protect the national integrity and security”, he said, when asked about the issue.
Meanwhile, India today said the process is on to solve the standoff arising out of Chinese troops’ incursions in Ladakh and hoped a solution would emerge.
“We have a system in place which kicks in when there is an issue and then that system tries to provide a solution. That is what we are doing right now. That process is going on and I hope we will find a solution.
“I think we are going in the right direction. I do not think we should be talking about it in too much of details because let the process work out a solution. Let us not either create an impediment or a doubt about the process,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters.
The Minister said the perception over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) varies between the two countries and “when perceptions vary, sometimes disagreements on the ground can take place.”
He said the two countries are in the process of working towards demarcating the LAC.
Ignoring India’s demand to revert to a status-quo in Depsang Valley, China today firmly stuck to its stand that its troops have not violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region.
“I want to reiterate here that the Chinese border troops have been acting in strict compliance with the bilateral agreements and conducting normal patrol on the Chinese side of the LAC. They have never crossed the line”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.
She was replying to a question on yesterday’s flag meeting between the militaries of the two countries in Ladakh region and subsequent assertion by India that status quo should be restored.
Hua’s assertion, reiterating her remarks made on April 22, makes it clear that China is sticking to its stand that there is no violation and its troops may stay put in the area until it is resolved through the talks.
Hua said both sides have opened the “communication channels” to discuss the issue though the consultation mechanisms on boundary issue.
But, at the same time she said both sides should stick to the consensus reached so far on LAC.
“The two sides should abide by their consensus which is in the interest of both. The two sides should work together to properly resolve border issues with in the framework of existing mechanisms and create favourable conditions for the bilateral relations”, she said.
This is the first time, after the controversy broke, that China has acknowledged that the issue is being discussed between the two countries.
The incident has thrown out of gear a flurry of engagements at the top between the two countries before the planned visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Delhi next month.
Li, who took over from Wen Jiabao last month, chose India to be his first trip abroad as Prime Minister to send a message of friendship as well as importance China attached to improve relations with New Delhi.
From India, Li plans to go to Pakistan, China’s all weather ally.
The new Pakistan Government, which is expected to be formed after elections next month, is expected to be in place when his visit take place.
Terming the intrusion by Chinese troops in Ladakh as “very serious”, BJP today said the Government is not handling properly the issue which needs to be dealt with “fearlessly”.
The main Opposition party, while promising to stand by the Government on the issue, suggested that the matter cannot be dealt with through flag meetings but requires handling at the level of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said the entire nation is concerned over the incident and wants to know how the Government is handling the matter.
“BJP wants this issue to be handled fearlessly by the Government. We will stand by the Government on this issue,” Singh told.
Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar told a press conference that the Chinese incursions into Indian territory is a “very serious matter” and the Government is “unfortunately” not treating it with the required seriousness.
He underlined that this is a matter of strategic importance and India should ensure that the status quo is maintained.
“About two weeks back, 50 armed soldiers and two helicopters entered our side of the border and came 10 km inside. They came upto Daulat Beg Oldi sector air strip from where India had flown sorties during the 1962 war,” he noted.
“This issue cannot be resolved through flag meetings at the border. Two such meetings have failed. The matter should be dealt with at the level of the Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister and the Defence Minister,” Javadekar said.
Recalling the earlier differences with China, BJP said it had issued stapled visas to Indians living in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh claiming that they live in a disputed territory.
“China treats Arunachal Pradesh as a part of its territory. It had also made illegal constructions in Gilgit. China is also increasing its presence in India’s neighbourhood be it Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Maldives or Myanmar,” Javadekar said.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of China strengthening its capability to airlift soldiers, India is planning to raise around 1,500 more airborne troops for deployment in the northeast along the China border.
Under the 12th Defence Plan, India is planning to raise two new battalions of the airborne troops with around 1,500 personnel under the elite Parachute Regiment of the Army, Defence Ministry sources told here.
The new raisings would be apparently used to check any move by any adversary to airdrop their troops within Indian territory and capture that area, they said.
The new units would also be used for the conventional roles in counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in that area and would also be capable of being dropped behind enemy lines in case of any future war, they said.
Recently, the Army raised the 11 Para (SF) that is being deployed under the Tezpur-based 4 Corps and 3 Corps in Dimapur which are two of the Army’s main formations looking after the border with China in the northeast.
The Parachute Regiment has 10 units under it of which eight are Special Forces units while the rest are Para Commando units with capability of launching airborne operations.
Seven among them have already been trained and classified as Special Forces, which are supposed to carry out counter- insurgency operations during peacetime and sabotage enemy installations beyond enemy lines during wars.
They are deployed in different sectors of the country and have also been given the responsibility to handle 26/11 type attacks near their area of deployment.
China in the recent past has significantly enhanced its capability to launch airborne operations and according to some reports, can air lift more than 3,500 soldiers for operational deployment in one go.(PTI)

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