To prevent smaller incidents from escalating, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are in regular contact through the hotlines along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the practice of ‘body pushing’ has been stopped, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi said on Friday. He also said that India has developed strategic patience as it is negotiating from a position of assertiveness to resolve the two-year standoff in eastern Ladakh.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of North Tech Symposium Seminar at the headquarters of the Northern Command, Lt Gen Dwivedi also said that during the negotiations, India wants forces to step back, to de-escalate, but there is a difference of perception on how that should be done.
“To make sure that there is no irritant which is likely to become a violent situation, what we have done is, at the lower level , that is at the battalion and brigade level, we have opened up various channels of communication. We have regular hotline exchanges and we have stopped the system of body push and so on that was there earlier and no physical contact is being ensured,” he said.
Lt Gen Dwivedi said that “wherever there is an irritant, we immediately call for talks at the battalion and brigade level, sit down together and come to an amicable solution”.
Speaking about the situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, Lt Gen Dwivedi said that it is “stable but it is in the state of heightened alert. Because we don’t want a repeat of the situation which took place in April 2020.”
As a result, he said, “The force deployment and equipment deployment is calibrated in nature and we will make sure any misadventure by the adversary does not take place again.”
As far as issues of difference of perception of the LAC, he said, these are required to be handled at the higher level – Corps Commander and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) level. These meetings keep taking place regularly.
The 15th Corps Commander meeting took place on March 11. “(But since) these are long standing issues, perceptional differences are there, the MEA is also involved with us, they will take their own time. We both need to have strategic patience.”
“Earlier, we used to say Chinese have strategic patience. They are ready to wait. Now, the present India has come up a long way and we also have strategic patience and we are also ready to wait,” he said.
He added that it means “we are now negotiating from the position of strength, with assertiveness and the law of fair play. Therefore, if we are ready for a negotiation, if it is prolonged, we are going to wait”. “On ground, as far as operational preparedness is concerned, there will be no lapses, I can assure you,” he asserted.
Asked about where the negotiations stand as of now, Lt Gen Dwivedi, who took over the Northern Command in February, said the message from the Chinese side and the MEA is that peace and tranquillity must be maintained along the border. “We must negotiate instead of letting the violence level get heightened again,” he said.
“Let’s both come half way,” Lt Gen Dwivedi said, adding, “Now the issue is the perceptional difference of this half way. That is where the issue comes.”
Therefore, he said, “We are saying that firstly the trust has to be built. The trust which was broken in April 2020, that has to be rebuilt and how that has to be rebuilt, let us de-escalate. Let us withdraw the military to larger distances from LAC and once that happens, I am sure the de-escalation will take place automatically. That is what our aim is and at the military level, we have always been saying so, and we are in full synergy with the MEA on the same subject.”
Lt Gen Dwivedi said that a number of new technologies and weapons are being inducted to strengthen communications, protection, firepower, mobility, and intelligence and surveillance in eastern Ladakh since the standoff began.
Talking about the situation on the Line of Control with Pakistan, Lt Gen Dwivedi said since 2021, the ceasefire understanding has been working very well, and in the last 11 to 12 months the ceasefire violations have been limited, to just two to three exceptions. However, he said, infiltration will not be tolerated for which the counter-infiltration grid has to be fool-proof, which has been ensured to a “great extent”.
He stated that there are approximately six major terrorist camps on the Pakistani side along the LoC and 29 minor ones. Additionally, the temporary launching pads are “co-located with the military establishments”.
“Complicity of the Pakistani Army and other agencies cannot be denied,” he stated. Around 200 terrorists are waiting across to launch, into India and there are around 40 to 50 local terrorists within the Kashmir Valley. Local terrorists, he said, are less trained and the number of “trained terrorists are dwindling day by day”.
Lt Gen Dwivedi mentioned that weapons are being dropped across the international border and the LoC using drones. “We have got some success (in shooting down drones). But what we missed, I cannot say,” he said.
Agreeing that some American equipment from Afghanistan has made its way into Jammu and Kashmir, he mentioned that “M4 rifles, made in US” and “night vision goggles, made in the UK and China” have been found.
“But even with that you will need trained militants,” he said and added that the Army is trying to ensure that such equipment does not reach trained militants and is getting successful at that.