India and China Bring Heavy Equipment, Weaponry to Border Standoff

Indian army trucks drive along the Srinagar-Leh National Highway at Sonmarg some 89 Kms of Srinagar on May 28, 2020. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP

Both the Indian and Chinese militaries have sent “artillery guns and combat vehicles” to their rear bases along a disputed border area in Ladakh, India’s northernmost state, as the nearly month-long standoff between the two armies continues to escalate, Indian military sources told the Times of India on Sunday.

As both sides reinforce their positions in the standoff by deploying heavy equipment and weaponry to the disputed border area, government officials from both India and China have said in recent days that they are still trying to resolve the conflict through diplomatic channels.

On May 28 — after satellite imagery revealed that the Chinese military had deployed “extensive” amounts of “artillery and mechanized elements” to its side of the Ladakh border — an Indian government official told the Indian Express that “the next 72 hours” would be “crucial” in monitoring China’s actions along the boundary, which could cause the situation to escalate further.

“The next 72 hours are crucial in which we have to watch for any reduction in the soldiers and equipment from the Chinese side. So far (as of Thursday afternoon), there has been no change in their deployment. Our side also remains on high alert, we haven’t changed anything either,” the Indian government official said.

China has reportedly ordered at least 5,000 troops to its side of the border so far. India has deployed at least 10,000-12,000 soldiers to their “operational alert areas” on the Ladakh border. Reports on Monday indicated that the Indian Army was transporting additional reinforcements from the disputed nearby region of Kashmir to Ladakh.

On Saturday, India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said India and China were engaged in “diplomatic dialogue” to solve the issue; He made the comment while responding to an offer to help mediate the dispute by the U.S. last week. Singh told Indian news channel, Aaj Tak, that he had spoken with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday night.

“I told him that India and China already had a mechanism that if there is any problem between the two countries, it is resolved by military and diplomatic dialogue. That mechanism is in place and the dialogue is on,” Rajnath Singh told Aaj Tak, as reported by the Hindustan Times.

Last Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who first originated the conspiracy theory that the U.S. Army caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, said the border standoff with India was “overall stable and controllable” while adding that China was determined to protect its national interests in the dispute.

“We are committed to safeguarding our territorial sovereignty and security and safeguarding peace and stability in the border areas. Now the China-India border area situation is overall stable and controllable,” Zhao said.

On May 18, the PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) said it had “bolstered” its military presence on its side of the Ladakh border, prompting the Indian Army to “rush troops” to the area hours later.

On May 12, Chinese helicopters crossed the aerial buffer zone over Ladakh separating India and China in an aggressive air maneuver; the Indian Air Force responded by ordering fighter jets to conduct regular area patrols over Ladakh. The air force exercises came in response to a skirmish on the ground on May 9 in which 150 Chinese and Indian border troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

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