NEW DELHI: The chief of defence staff and IAF chief visited eastern Ladakh on Monday to take stock of the operational situation and readiness in the high-altitude region, even as India handed over the Chinese soldier who had strayed across the Line of Actual Control to China in the morning.
The top-level visits of General Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria to the forward areas took place amidst no signs of any de-escalation in the ongoing military confrontation with China, which has entered its ninth month now.
Gen Rawat was briefed on the operational situation by 14 Corps commander Lt-General P G K Menon, among others. ACM Bhadauria, in turn, reviewed the “status of deployments” while visiting various bases and advance landing grounds (ALGs), including Thoise, Nyoma and Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO).
There has been a heavy build-up by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the critically-located Depsang-DBO sector since early-May. The IAF airstrip at DBO, at an altitude of 16,614-feet,overlooks the strategic Karakoram Pass and is just a few km from the LAC and the China-occupied Aksai Chin region beyond. It was described as “a big threat for China” by the IAF chief earlier.
“On Monday, Gen Rawat and ACM Bhadauria also held a comprehensive discussion on operational matters with top Army and IAF commanders at the Leh airbase,” said an officer.
Earlier in the day, the Army handed over to China the PLA soldier, who had been apprehended on Friday after he strayed across the LAC near Gurung Hill, one of the six-seven heights proactively occupied by Indian troops on the south bank of Pangong Tso-Chushul area on August 28-30.
The Army ruled out any “espionage angle” after questioning the PLA soldier with the help of interpreters and other experts. “The PLA soldier was returned at the Chushul-Moldo border personnel meeting point at 10.10 am, after following laid down procedures and protocol,” said an officer.
The lack of any tangible progress in resolving the stand-off between India and China has led to a major delay in even scheduling the ninth round of corps commander-level talks after the eighth one was held on November 6.
Over 50,000 soldiers each from the two sides are ranged against each other at Pangong Tso, Chushul, Gogra-Hotsprings, Depsang Plains and other areas despite freezing temperatures – which have dipped to even minus 30 degree Celsius at some heights — and oxygen deprivation in the high-altitude area.
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Image Courtesy : TOI