Amid tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Former Indian Army Chief General VP Malik spoke to Republic TV over the on-going high-level military talks between India-China. The General spoke about the escalating tensions between the two countries, China violating the Line of Actual Control, Galwan River crossing, and so on.
Speaking about the current situation between India and China, General VP Malik said, "See, post-Kargil war, we raised a new core headquarters for Ladakh. 14 core headquarters were raised and additional troops were then pumped in as far as particularly the Eastern Ladakh is concerned. And since then, there has been a great deal of improvement, both in terms of strength of our troops, in kind of armor, artillery, and other weapon systems are concerned. As well as the infantry forces are concerned. There has also been an improvement in the infrastructure. So, the situation today is quite different from what it was in 1999 or 2000. Today, we have a fair amount of strength. Whether it is a question of defending Galwan or the question of defending Chumar and all these areas."
He further added, "But unfortunately, from 1993, when we signed the first agreement for maintaining tranquility and peaceful situation along the line of actual control from that time till now China has been-- PLA, in particular, has been gradually eroding all those agreements. And whatever understanding was there has now been eroded in recent years. In fact, the frequency of their violation has increased considerably. So, while we have been able to sort out a situation like Chumar and Dapsone or Doklam, I think the situation is getting worse."
According to the General, the first attempt has to be to sort out diplomatically the line of actual control. "There should be a clear understanding where the line of actual control lies and which are the disputed areas in which again the understanding has to be there that we do not violate the present situation or the status quo of the disputed areas. What China has done now is disturb the status quo in the area of North of Pangong Tso, and also by crossing the line of actual control in Galwan valley. So these are very clear violations and when they are seen with other activities of China, whether it is Naku La or their understanding with Pak etc."
"So the situation becomes more serious on a strategic level in order to sort out the situation at a tactical level or operational level, I think we have to stand firm and we have to carry on with our talks with the military level or diplomatic level without conceding any ground. The situation must go as it was before May 2020. So disputed areas must remain disputed without China occupying them as they have done today. As far as the violation in Galwan valley is concerned, they have to move back behind the line of actual control. There is no question of their disturbing the development of infrastructure. That is all happening in our own territory. They have done it in the past and we are doing it now. And we must continue with that development," he added.
According to the General, the issue of the Galwan River crossing has to be part of the agenda. He said, "There is absolutely no question of us accepting their violation and coming in and trying to stop the track which goes from the junction of the Gulwan river and shock river going to the line of actual control. That area has never been under dispute so there is absolutely no question of permitting them to stay on this side of the line of actual control. It has to be part of the agenda at the present level of talks that are taking place."
Speaking about the situation if it comes to a war between the two countries, General VP Malik said, "Firstly, as I said, today, the situation as far as the border with China is concerned, is not like 1999. There has been a considerable amount of improvement. The manpower, technology, weapon system, they have improved considerably. Not only that, the ability of the army and the airforce to fight together in a coordinated manner has also improved considerably. So, today the situation is much different."
"Secondly, we are battle-hardened armed forces. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The Chinese PLA troops don't have the same kind. The only advantage today is that they have got better infrastructure due to terrain in Tibet and the kind of roads and tracks that they are able to build along the line of actual control. But, when it comes to fighting against each other, our having to take combat action against them, I have a feeling that our troops will definitely do better," he added.
"Firstly, I don't think it is in the interest of India or China to escalate this present conflict. That will become necessary if there is absolutely no progress during the talks between the military level or diplomatic level or even the political level. I don't think either India or China is interested in escalating or getting into a war situation. But having said that, as I said, there is absolutely no doubt. If skirmishes do take place in a place like Galwan or anywhere else, today we have adequate strength and determination both at the military and political levels."
He further added, "Our attitude has changed from the time what we have seen whether it was the loc crossing some years ago or Balakot. So today, the strategy has become more pro-active. We can do that. But I would say, let's hope that these things can be sorted out peacefully so that neither India or Chinese troops have to fight with each other
Chinese military helicopters were spotted close to the border between India and China in eastern Ladakh after a clash between soldiers from both sides took place on two occasions. Thereafter, a fleet of Su-30 fighters of the Indian Air Force carried out sorties in the area. According to reports, Indian and Chinese Army personnel clashed along the northern bank of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh on May 5. Four days later, a face-off between the two sides was witnessed near Naku La Pass in Sikkim. Speaking with Republic TV, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the Centre would not let India's self-respect come down. He added that diplomatic talks with China were going on.