As China deploys more troops, Army chief reviews situation in Ladakh

Army chief Gen M M Naravane at a forward post in Eastern Ladakh.
Army chief Gen M M Naravane at a forward post in Eastern Ladakh.

India braces up for deployment in another harsh winter

*LG, DS, BRO launch mega road infra projects

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Oct 1: Amidst reports of deployment of more troops in certain areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, Army chief Gen MM Naravane today reached Ladakh on a two-day visit during which he toured forward areas, interacted with Army Commanders and troops and reviewed operational preparedness as India braced up to keep its troops deployed in the upcoming harsh winters with no early solution in sight in some areas of engagement.

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There have been reports that the People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) of China has deployed more troops in some of the friction points in Eastern Ladakh and also converted temporary shelters for the troops into concrete structures.

Lieutenant Governor Ladakh R K Mathur and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar laying foundation for border roads at Turtuk on Friday.          —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin
Lieutenant Governor Ladakh R K Mathur and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar laying foundation for border roads at Turtuk on Friday. —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin

In view of the reports, the Indian Army has also braced up for another long stay in Eastern Ladakh in the upcoming harsh winters which are set to start in a month’s time now. Standoff between Sino-Indian troops had started in April-May last year. While disengagement has taken place in some of the areas, at many points troops of the two countries remained engaged in eyeball-to-eyeball position. This will be second consecutive harsh winter for the troops in Eastern Ladakh after 2020.
“General MM Naravane, Chief of Army Staff visited Rezang La War Memorial in Eastern Ladakh and paid homage to the bravehearts who laid down their lives for the nation,” a tweet by the ADG PI of Indian Army said.
Through another tweet, the ADG PI said Gen Naravane visited forward area in Eastern Ladakh where he was briefed on prevailing security situation and operational preparedness. The Chief of Army Staff also interacted with troops and complimented them for their resoluteness and high morale, it added.
Sources, however, said the Army chief took detailed review of situation prevailing along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh especially in the wake of latest developments with China deploying more soldiers at some points. He also visited some of the forward areas in Eastern Ladakh and interacted with the Field Commanders as well as the troops.
Gen Naravane also called on Ladakh Lieutenant Governor R K Mathur and discussed with him prevailing situation in Eastern Ladakh.
The visit of the Army chief to Eastern Ladakh holds significance as it comes at a time when China has alleged that the standoff at the LAC was because New Delhi was following a ‘forward policy’ and ‘illegally’ encroaching Chinese territory.
The allegation has promoted New Delhi to hit out at the neighbouring country, saying that ‘unilateral’ attempts and ‘provocative’ behaviour by the Chinese military to alter the status quo along the LAC has seriously disturbed peace and tranquillity in the region.
“China continues to deploy a large number of troops and armaments in the border areas and it was in response to Chinese actions that Indian armed forces had to make appropriate counter deployments,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Meanwhile, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) today launched five major road development projects in Ladakh in tune with the government’s efforts to improve overall infrastructure in the strategically key region.
The ground breaking ceremony for the projects was attended by Lt Governor of Ladakh Radha Krishna Mathur, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Director General of BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry.
The Defence Ministry said the projects included construction of greenfield alignment and upgrading of major single lane roads to double-lane and tunnelling works.
It said the construction of the Hanuthang-Handanbroke-Zungpal-Turtuk road will provide inter valley connectivity between Hanuthang-Handanbroke (Indus Valley) and Zungpal-Turtuk (Shyok Valley) across the Stakpuchan Range.
“This will also reduce the travel time to three-and-half hours from existing nine hours to Turtuk via Leh without crossing the treacherous Khardungla pass,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said strengthening of four major single-lane roads has also commenced.
“These roads include the 78 km road from Khalse to Batallik, the 50 km road from Kargil to Dumgil, the 70 km road from Khalsar to Shyokvia Agham and 31 km road from Tangtse to Lukung.
“All these roads are used extensively by travellers to tourist destinations such as Hundar (Nubra Valley), Turtuk village, Shyok, Pangon-Tso lake and Aryan villages of Dah, Garkone Darchik etc,” the Ministry said.
Addressing, Mathur said it was his promise that he made to the people of Turtuk residents during his last visit in July to complete the long standing demand of the border area of Turtuk and today it has been fulfilled. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has special focus to develop all regions of Ladakh and Hill Council budget has been increased four times. Likewise, Modi sanctioned Ladakh University, Central University, Medical college etc during the past two years which shows he pays special attention to Ladakh.
Dr Ajay Kumar, Defence Secretary, in his speech, said that the LG Ladakh has taken a big initiative with BRO to develop infrastructure in Ladakh region. This kind of initiative has been taken for the first time in the country which will set a bench mark for other States’ Chief Ministers and LG to work in partner with BRO.
Meanwhile, Turtuk residents submitted a memorandum to the Lieutenant Governor listing their demands which include up-gradation of PHC Turtuk to CHC, issuance of Actual Line of Control certificate, establishment of Degree College at Turtuk, concession in electricity fee, recognition of villages in Tabey Turtuk as Revenue villages, channelization and construction of concrete Bundh of Turtuk Nallah and establishment of a residential school at Turtuk.