(defencenews): China is getting increasingly aggressive on the border even as Indian troops hold forth with equal force. The continuing high-altitude military faceoff at Chumar in eastern Ladakh, with around 1,000 Chinese soldiers ranged against an equal number of Indian troops in sub-zero temperatures for the last 12 days, has led Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag to cancel his proposed visit to Bhutan.
The Army chief decided to stay put after Indian forces had to make a tactical retreat at one of the eight places of standoff in Chumar three days ago in the face of heavy Chinese troop presence. The government has now decided to send in more troops as the standoff persists.
Gen Suhag's three-day visit — his first foreign trip after becoming Army chief — was called off at the last minute after the People's Liberation Army troops showed no signs of withdrawing from their forward positions in the Chumar sector on Monday despite diplomatic intervention. Indian and PLA troops continue to "hold" their "tactical positions" against each other at heights around 14,500 feet.
Home ministry sources said Chinese troops have been "quite aggressive" in the past few days and three days back even forced Indian troops to make a tactical retreat about two kilometres deep inside Indian territory at one of the eight points in Chumar where the standoff continues.
A senior government official said, "Our troops too are standing forth with equal force. The retreat was made tactically as Chinese strength on that point was far greater. More reinforcements were sent later and now we are holding position."
Sources said the standoff continued as China was not ready to relent on its road-building exercise near the border and India was unwilling to bring down some structures it has built near the LAC. "It's a question of who blinks first. Chinese want us to dismantle some structures that we have built to sustain our forces in Chumar. We are not ready for that," the official said.While the "strategic message" being sent through the "tactical faceoff" is still not very clear, it's felt that China is playing a double-game. "There is a clear disconnect between what President Xi Jinping told PM Narendra Modi at their summit here last week and the attitude of PLA commanders on the ground. It's simply not possible that the PLA would flout the orders of Xi, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, to withdraw," said the source.
Xi tells PLA to get ready for LIMITED REGIONAL WAR ::
Interestingly, the Chinese government in Beijing on Sunday directed its top military brass to ensure "all PLA forces follow the instructions of President Xi Jinping" and remove "inefficiencies" in the chain of military command. Meanwhile, Xi is also learnt to have asked his troops to be ready for a "regional war".
Gen Suhag, along with his director-general of military operations Lt-Gen P R Kumar, has been briefing the PMO and others in the government on the Chumar standoff on a regular basis.
The rival troops, depending on the harsh terrain in the disputed stretch, are separated by distances ranging from 700 metres to 1.5 km at eight "tactical" locations. "We are adequately prepared and deployed for the long haul if it comes to that. The PLA will find it tough to either increase the strength of its troops in the region or sustain them beyond a point through airdropping of supplies by helicopters," said a source.
Though the assessment is that the PLA troops will eventually withdraw after "saving face", the Army is keeping its 15 battalions (800 soldiers each) as well as "reserve units" in eastern Ladakh on "high alert" to cater for any contingency, as reported by TOI.
Sources said China seems to be testing the Modi government's resolve both on the land boundaries as well as the Indian Ocean Region with its Maritime Silk Route construct. During the 21-day Depsang faceoff at the DBO sector in April-May last year, just before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit here, India had got conflicting signals from the PLA commanders on the ground and the political leadership in Beijing.Similar messaging is happening in the ongoing Chumar faceoff, which coincided with President Xi Jinping's visit here. "It's very difficult to believe that local PLA commanders would act like this without the top Chinese leadership's nod. We have asked China to adhere to the 2005 protocol on CBMs on the LAC," said the source.
It had taken intensive diplomatic intervention to finally defuse the DBO faceoff last year after India dismantled "a tin shed" at Chumar and the PLA troops simultaneously withdrew from the Depsang Valley.Similarly, this time the Chinese troops are also asking Indian troops to demolish a recently-built hut at Tible in the Chumar sector, as reported by TOI earlier.