Air activity up; India reinforces troops along entire LAC before talks with China

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NEW DELHI: Air activity in the Sino-Indian border has gone up significantly while Indian troops have reinforced positions along the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the air force is on alert ahead of a key meeting on Saturday to resolve the month-long border stand off in eastern Ladakh.

Sources have told ET that increased activity by Chinese fighter jets has been detected in Aksai Chin over the past few days, well away from the LAC, and is being monitored closely by the air force that has also increased patrols.

While the activity, which seems to be a part of an air exercise being carried out by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, has not breached the 10 km no fly zone for fighter jets along the border, the Indian Air Force has stepped up its presence in the area as standard procedure.

The Indian Air Force has a distinct advantage over China in the Ladakh sector, with a host of air bases including Srinagar and Chandigarh that can be used to quickly deploy fighter jets with a full fuel and weapons load.

Chinese airbases on the other hand are located at higher altitude, limiting them to a lower payload of weapons and fuel.

Besides, Indian troops have been reinforced and moved ahead at key places along the LAC from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh to counter Chinese deployments. In Uttarakhand and Sikkim, in particular, army units have moved ahead after reports of a Chinese build up on the other side.

Sources said the moves are not directly connected to the Lt Gen-level talks planned in eastern Ladakh on Saturday but have been taking place over the past few weeks to mirror similar deployments across the border.

Officials said that enhanced border patrol, cautious redeployment of troops and use of UAVs for surveillance have been intensified along the 3,488 km border that runs across Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh.

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Apart from Ladakh, PLA forces are believed to have cut off some areas in Sikkim, which were earlier patrolled by Indian forces, sources said, leading to a stand off. The current stand off in Ladakh has further led to high alert in other states as a “precautionary measure,” officials said, adding that caution is being exercised by the security forces to ensure that major convoys of military trucks are not used for the movement as it may lead to escalation of the situation before the talks.

“We have deployed sufficient forces along the border,” said another government official refusing to elaborate on the numbers. Indian forces however face connectivity issues in some of the border areas as compared to their PLA counterparts, according to multiple sources in security establishment.

The Centre is in touch with the chief ministers of four states and administrator of Ladakh for logistical requirements. Officials from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) refused to comment on the developments and a home ministry spokesperson added, “Official information on the Sino-India border issue will be dealt by ADGPI, ministry of defence.” The defence ministry has not been commenting on the ongoing situation but officials say that there has been no current violence along the border.

Sources said that a detailed report on the Ladakh situation has also been submitted by intelligence agencies to the Centre last week that points to at least four incursion points at Galwan, Gogra and the Pangong Tso lake. The report has also explained the circumstances under which Chinese soldiers quickly redeployed from an exercise being carried out in Aksai Chin to occupy strategic positions along the LAC and across it to deny access to areas that were earlier being patrolled by the Indian side.





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