Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a 15 minute one-to-one conversation with XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh at the force’s Nimu Headquarters outside Leh on Friday, even as India has decided it will closely monitor the promised disengagement and withdrawal of the Chinese PLA from East Ladakh for the next 10 days before deciding on any further action.
Military commanders and government officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that China’s public posture on a withdrawal isn’t playing out on the ground, with the PLA’s rear positions on the Galwan bank have been flooded due to sharp rise in river water levels. “We have satellite and drone imagery to show that Chinese PLA tents five kilometres in depth have been flooded by the icy rising waters of the Galwan. With snow melting at a rapid pace, any position on the river bank is dangerous. Even though China is engaging in more public posturing on the withdrawal, the current PLA positions in Galwan, Gogra, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso are untenable in the long run,” said a senior military commander.
With the Indian Army deployed in full strength all along the LAC in East Ladakh, the Indian Navy’s steel patrol boats will be introduced for defence of Pangong Tso by next Wednesday. The top of the patrol boats are being cut so that they can be transported from Mumbai in a C-17 heavy transporter to Leh for deployment. The steel boats with gun mounts are being introduced to match the PLA’s heavy patrol boats, which were used by China to capture the fingers on the north bank of the salt water lake.
With three senior military commander level meetings and two senior diplomatic level parleys between India and China, the next 10 days are critical — it is expected that during this period , PLA will start to withdraw from the contested positions and restore status quo ante.
Sitting under camouflage netting at Nimu with artillery and anti aircraft guns deployed, PM Modi was briefed in full about PLA’s operational deployment and the status of the four contested points by Northern Army commander Lt Gen Y K Joshi. The PM then had a one-on-one conversation with Gen Harinder Singh, giving the latter clear cut instructions.
“India will not initiate any military operation on its own but will stand up PLA and retaliate to any move from the Chinese side all along the 3488 km line of actual control. Our troops are in far better position in East Ladakh and we will wait for full PLA withdrawal , not just symbolic removal of some vehicles and troopers ,” said a senior official.
During PM Modi’s visit, the entire military brass, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Rawat, Army Chief Gen Manoj Naravane , Gen Joshi and Gen Singh discussed the Ladakh situation threadbare. They were told that there should be let up in upgrading border infrastructure, right up to the Depsang Plains and Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO).
The PM has no words of criticism for the Indian Army, Air Force or ITBP, but only pumped up the troopers with wholesome praise and the promise of full backing, said another senior official.