Naravane is learned to have briefed PM Narendra Modi on Thursday after returning from his visit to forward areas in eastern Ladakh, which was followed by another meeting with defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday.
‘PLA unlikely to risk an all-out offensive’
The assessment as of now is that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is “unlikely to risk an all-out offensive” despite all its muscle-flexing by amassing troops and heavy weaponry along the unresolved Line of Actual Control (LAC), especially in the strategically located Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO)-Depsang area, sources said.
With India too deploying thousands of additional troops backed by tanks, infantry combat vehicles and howitzers in the region, and IAF fighters like Sukhoi-30 MKIs and MiG-29s regularly patrolling the skies, “criticalities in full operational preparedness” that existed before have been plugged. “We are well-poised in the forward areas with a strong military posture, with more troops and weaponry positioned in the depth areas,” a source said.
But face-offs and clashes cannot be ruled out due to tensions running high on the ground, especially in the Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley regions, though the rival troops are maintaining “stand-off distances” from each other.
China is continuing to aggressively push its claim at “Patrolling Point-14” in Galwan Valley region, the site of the bloody clashes on June 15, where the PLA is demanding Indian troops must not cross the confluence of the Shyok and Galwan rivers.
Similarly, PLA soldiers continue to occupy the “Finger-4 to 8” area (mountainous spurs stretching over a distance of 8km) on the north bank of Pangong Tso since early-May, having built dozens of fortifications and taking the heights to dominate the area there.
But the Indian Army remains firm it will not yield to China’s attempt to grab more area in both Galwan and Pangong Tso areas, and is pressing for restoration of status quo as it existed in April.
“There has been no disengagement and de-escalation on the ground, just a few vehicles moving up and down. It might take a few months… can stretch till October. We are in a wait-and-watch mode,” another source said.
China may be pushing the LAC to the west under its continuing strategy to incrementally grab territory, but an offensive thrust would require the PLA to bring in a “much higher level of combat, combat-support elements and logistics” to the LAC given India’s enhanced operational preparedness. “That level of offensive intent from the PLA is not visible on the ground yet,” the source said.
Militarily, the PLA’s deep incursion into the Depsang Bulge, a sprawling plateau to the north of Galwan, where too it has restricted the movement of Indian patrols as in the Pangong Tso and Galwan areas, is the most worrisome, as reported by TOI earlier.
The DBO-Depsang sector is the place where India has concentrated its forces, with an infantry division (10,000-12,000 troops) geared for high-altitude warfare and other weapon systems like M-777 ultra-light howitzers, to check further ingress by Chinese troops.