Indian Defense Sources Say ‘No Sudden Increase’ in Troops on China Border Amid Reports of Escalation

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
June 30, 2021 Updated: July 1, 2021

NEW DELHI—Indian defense sources are denying that an extra 50,000 troops have been sent suddenly to the border with China, after media reports called the alleged deployment a “historic move” by India.

Three defense sources who spoke to The Epoch Times on June 29 denied a report by Bloomberg about a sudden buildup of troops and “shift toward an offensive military posture” in the past few months, saying that heavy deployment has continued since last year’s standoff.

“There’s no sudden increase of troops,” a source in the Ministry of Defense told The Epoch Times over the phone, without divulging details.

The Bloomberg report quotes four anonymous Indian defense sources who didn’t divulge specifics but claimed the movement includes fighter jet squadrons, helicopters, and artillery pieces such as the M777 howitzer, deployed to “three distinct areas along [India’s] border with China.” It mentioned the deployment of French-made Rafale fighter jets and long-range missiles in the Arunachal Pradesh area, which borders southern Tibet.

Bloomberg also reported extra deployment in the Ladakh area, but there were no details about whether the movement in these wider stretches of the region happened at strategic permanent bases or tactical temporary bases.

India and China share more than 2,000 miles of borderland comprising a wide range of geological formations—the trans-Himalayan area, the dry desert, extremely high altitudes, border-traversing river and lake zones, trans-border wildlife sanctuaries, and thick forests.

The Ministry of Defense source didn’t deny the deployment in their conversation with The Epoch Times, but merely denied any “sudden increase.”

Satoru Nagao, an Indian military strategy analyst and a non-resident fellow with the Washington-based Hudson Institute, told The Epoch Times that any massive redeployment on a permanent base can’t be a sudden move.

Epoch Times Photo
Two Indian army trucks move toward Changla pass, the second-highest mountain pass in the world at more than 16,800 feet above sea level, en route to Pangong Tso in Ladakh on June 22, 2021. (Venus Upadhayaya/Epoch Times)

“But at the same time, the military is a secret world. The Indian government probably doesn’t wish to advertise the move because it can likely lead to an escalation of conflict,” he said.

On June 22, when The Epoch Times traveled through Ladakh from the capital city of Leh to the India–China border region in Pangong Tso, there was heavy traffic of military vehicles on the high mountain pass road, and the next day there were also vehicles visibly carrying troops from border bases toward the capital.

The 84-mile-long Pangong Tso Lake, which is locally considered a holy lake, lies in both Indian and Chinese-controlled territory. It was one of the major sites of conflict last year.

Major Gen. G.G. Dwivedi, an Indian war veteran and former assistant chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, told The Epoch Times that the Pangong Tso is “strategically important because it offers an avenue for employment of forces along both the banks, cases in point the 1962 war and the Chinese incursion last summer.”

From Bloomberg’s report, it’s not clear whether Pangong Tso is one of the three distinct locations of alleged deployment, nor did The Epoch Times’ source in the Ministry of Defence clarify the matter.

The deployment of troops is generally related to the ground situation, terrain, and weather conditions, Dwivedi said.

He said that certain border posts are vacated or thinned out during the harsh winters and reoccupied during the campaigning season.

There has been an increase in military deployment since last summer as a response to a large-scale massive buildup by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Chinese have not disengaged nor de-escalated, except in the Pangong Tso sector, Dwivedi said, hence an increased deployment and buildup on the Indian side is likely to continue until the PLA disengages and deescalates.

“So far, talks between military commanders have not made headway, primarily due to the PLA’s stubbornness,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
A view of the Pangong Tso Lake from the point from where the strategic lake starts in India, on June 22, 2021. (Venus Upadhayaya/The Epoch Times)

Reports of Chinese Buildup

The two countries have been engaged in a war of words over the amassing of troops on the border. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a press conference on June 23 that the deployment of Chinese troops along the border with Ladakh is a “normal defense arrangement.”

“[It] is a normal defense arrangement aimed at preventing and responding to encroachment and threat on China’s territory by the relevant country,” Zhao said, responding to Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent remarks that the resolution of border issues depends upon whether the PLA will adhere to its written commitments about reduced deployment on the border.

India responded to Zhao’s statement on June 24 by blaming China for amassing a large number of troops on the border, saying Beijing wants to unilaterally alter the border status quo.

“It is well recognized that it has been the Chinese actions over the last year, including amassing of a large number of troops close to border areas in the western sector and trying to unilaterally alter the status quo along the LAC [Line of Actual Control], which have seriously disturbed peace and tranquility in the border areas,” said Arindam Bagchi, India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson.

Epoch Times Photo
A row of army trucks on the high mountain roads of Ladakh, en route from Leh city to Pangong Tso lake on June 22, 2021. (Venus Upadhayaya/The Epoch Times)

Nagao said China’s comment about massive troop deployment along the Indian border since last year as a “normal defense arrangement” has “irritated India.”

“China said such a huge military deployment on the Indo–China border since last year is ‘normal.’ China expressed their will to stay permanently and provoke India indefinitely. That’s why India is upset,” Nagao said.

“If India said that recent moves on the Indian side are ‘no sudden move,’ it means that’s in response to China’s ‘normal.’ I guess India is deploying huge forces against China’s huge forces, and both of them say this is normal. Thus both of them maintain their troop level permanently; there’s no ease of tension.”

Amid the counteraccusations, the two countries are preparing for the 12th round of military commanders’ talks to find an early resolution on the pending issues, as per a decision taken on June 25 during the 22nd meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India–China Border Affairs.

Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Reporter
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.