India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh came out firing on Sunday, vowing that India will never compromise on its “national pride” as it is no longer a “weak” country, while military sources confirmed the nation has moved main battle tanks (MBTs) closer to the Chinese border.
Singh, who strongly touted India’s increased military capability, also assured the Opposition that talks were in progress to resolve the border stand-off with China and that no one would be kept in the dark, The Indian Express reported.
Addressing a virtual rally in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said: “I want to assure that we will not compromise with national pride under any circumstance. India is no longer a weak India. Our strength in national security has risen. But this strength is not meant to frighten anyone but to secure our country.”
Stating that military talks were underway, Singh said: “China has expressed the desire to resolve the issue through dialogue and our effort is to find a solution through talks at the military and diplomatic level.”
“We will not keep anybody in the dark. We will tell everything at an appropriate time to Parliament and to everybody,” he added while referring to the situation along the defacto border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
According to Military Leaks, last month, an aggressive cross-border skirmish between Chinese and Indian forces resulted in minor injuries to troops at Pangong Tso lake, located in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.
The incident has been followed in recent weeks by unconfirmed reports of tensions in the mountainous area, though neither side has publicly acknowledged it.
The Indian Army has since deployed more tanks closer to the Chinese border in the Himalayas following conflict at Pangong Tso lake.
Both countries have mobilized thousands of troops, armoured vehicles and combat aircraft, Military Leaks reported. The T-90MS and T-72M1 tanks were transported to an unspecified location closer to the LAC, according to sources.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has held large-scale maneuvers featuring thousands of paratroopers and armored vehicles in the country’s high-altitude northwestern region.
These maneuvers were clearly organized to demonstrate to India the extent of China’s military capabilities in their border regions.
Tensions flare on a fairly regular basis between the two regional powers over their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier, which has never been properly demarcated, according to media outlet Al Jazeera.
But sources and Indian news reports suggest that despite the tough talk from officials, India appears to have effectively ceded to China areas that the PLA occupied in recent weeks, notably parts of the northern side of Pangong Tso lake and some of the strategically important Galwan river valley.
“The Chinese are refusing to move back from their newly captured positions both in Pangong and Galwan valley. They are consolidating the new status quo,” a senior Indian military officer stationed in the region told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
According to BBC sources, Chinese forces have put up tents, dug trenches and moved heavy equipment several kilometres inside what had been regarded by India as its territory.
The move came after India built a road several hundred kilometres long connecting to a high-altitude forward air base which it reactivated in 2008.
Who is to blame? It appears competing strategic goals lie at the root, and both sides blame each other.
The traditionally peaceful Galwan River valley has now become a hotspot because it is where the LAC is closest to the new road India has built along the Shyok River, sources say.
India’s decision to ramp up infrastructure seems to have infuriated Beijing. The road could boost Delhi’s capability to move men and material rapidly in case of a conflict.
In what seems to be an intelligence failure, India seems to have been caught off guard again. According to Indian media accounts, the country’s soldiers were outnumbered and surrounded when China swiftly diverted men and machines from a military exercise to the border region.
This triggered alarm in Delhi — and India has limited room for manoeuvre. It can either seek to persuade Beijing to withdraw its troops through dialogue or try to remove them by force. Neither is an easy option.