In a major development, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday ordered the military to scale up the battle preparedness, visualising the worst-case scenarios and asked them to resolutely defend the country’s sovereignty.
Xi, 66 who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and head of the two-million-strong military with prospects of lifelong tenure in power, made the remarks while attending a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police Force during the current parliament session being held in Beijing.
Xi ordered the military to think about worst-case scenarios, scale up training and battle preparedness, promptly and effectively deal with all sorts of complex situations and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests.
However, there was no mention of any specific issues that posed a threat to the country.
Jinping’s comments come in the wake of the continuing standoff between the militaries of India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim have witnessed major military build-up by both the Indian and Chinese armies recently, in a clear signal of escalating tension and hardening of respective positions by the two sides even two weeks after they were engaged in two separate face-offs.
The nearly 3,500-km-long LAC is the de-facto border between the two countries.
Indian and Chinese troops have remained engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in several areas along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, signalling that the standoff could become the biggest military face-off after the Doklam crisis in 2017.
India has further increased its strength in Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley – the two contentious areas where Chinese army is learnt to have been deploying around 2,000 to 2,500 troops, besides gradually enhancing temporary infrastructure.
A major concern for the Indian military has been the presence of Chinese troops around several key points including Indian Post KM120 along the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The Chinese side has particularly strengthened its presence in the Galwan Valley, erecting around 100 tents in the last two weeks and bringing in heavy equipment for construction of bunkers.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs to assess the situation along the LAC.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also held an elaborate security review meeting with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air force.
In the meeting which lasted for about an hour, it was also decided that road constructions must continue and Indian fortifications and troop deployment must match those of the Chinese.
Meanwhile, no breakthrough has taken place till Monday even as the India Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army held several meetings to resolve face-off in Eastern Ladakh at LAC.
The last meeting took place on Sunday but many things remain unresolved, said source quoted by IANS, adding that more commander level talks are in pipeline to resolve the issues.
It is learnt that there have been at least five rounds of talks between military commanders on the ground.
Last Friday, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane visited Leh, the headquarters of 14 Corps in Ladakh to review the operational situation amid tensions between India and China along the disputed LAC.
The visit came a day after the Government on Thursday denied China’s claims that India is carrying out any activity in violation of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Sikkim.
China has recently accused India of unilaterally attempting to change the status of the un-demarcated border in Ladakh after troops of the two countries were involved in scuffles at Ladakh and Sikkim in which more than ten of them were injured.
On the other hand, Indian armed forces have accused Chinese army of blocking patrols and unnecessarily erecting tents and deploying forces at Sikkim and Ladakh inside Indian territory on the LAC between the two countries.
In the first week of May, 250 Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area.
In the second week of May, around 150 soldiers of both sides had a face-off near Naku La Pass in Sikkim.
In both the incidents, soldiers sustained injuries.
Two days later, the Air Force rushed its fighter jet patrols in Ladakh after Chinese military choppers were found to be flying close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Meanwhile, amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and heightened tension between the two countries at the disputed Line of Actual Control, China has said that it will repatriate its citizens from India.
Beijing, however, has downplayed the much-publicised evacuation of its citizens from India.
Global Times, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, said that evacuation of Chinese citizens from India was a normal process and should not be linked with the border tensions.
Published in English, Global Times also clarified that the news of escalation of tension on the India-China border was just media speculation. The paper wrote, “The voluntary repatriation plan should be seen as a normal service provided by the embassy to its citizens. Yet, some Indian media outlets have intentionally linked the normal operation to the recent border tension between China and India, fueling a new round of irresponsible speculation that China may be preparing for an escalation of the border disputes.”
Earlier on Monday, in an urgent notice, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi had told its citizens residing in India that special flights would be available to fly them back home.
The newspaper further said that New Delhi should not misinterpret the move by China this time. After all, it was not long ago that the Indian government took similar actions to bring home its citizens stranded abroad.
Meanwhile, the US-China military frictions are also on the rise with the US navy stepping its patrols in the disputed South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits. Washington and Beijing are also engaged in a war of words over the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticised the attempts of some US politicians to blame China for the pandemic. The US, he said, was pushing ties with China to “the brink of a new Cold War”.
On May 22, China, the second-largest military spender after the US, hiked its defence budget by 6.6 per cent to USD 179 billion, nearly three times that of India, the lowest increment in recent years amidst the massive disruption caused to the communist giant’s economy by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the parliament session, President Xi Jinping, commenting on defence expenditure, said that “every penny must be well spent to produce maximum results”.
Xi has been stressing on the troops battle preparedness ever since he came to power in 2012 insisting on real time exercises to win wars.
Meanwhile, a Chinese expert commented that unlike the previous standoffs between the Chinese and Indian armies, the latest border friction was not caused by accident, but was a planned move of New Delhi.
“India has been crossing the boundary line into the Galwan Valley region and entering Chinese territory. Indian soldiers have also deliberately instigated conflicts with their Chinese counterparts. If India failed to stop such provocations as soon as possible, it will impact on Beijing-New Delhi ties – and may even exceed the sort of intensity of the Doklam standoff, an article in the state-run Global Times written by Long Xingchun, president of Chengdu Institute of World Affairs, said.
Meanwhile, New Delhi has asserted that all Indian activities were carried out on its side of the border, asserting that India has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management. At the same time, it said, India was deeply committed to protect its sovereignty and security.
“Any suggestion that Indian troops had undertaken activity across the LAC in the Western sector or the Sikkim sector is not accurate. Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas and abide by it scrupulously,” MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said last week.
(With PTI inputs)