India wants to achieve status quo ante along the border with China in Ladakh and revert to the situation on the border as of April 2020, the nation’s Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat told WION in an exclusive interview.
“Yes, we wish to achieve status quo ante,” General Rawat said while speaking to WION’s Executive Editor Palki Sharma. “Our bottom line is that we want to revert to the April 2020 situation.”
“This is what has been communicated to the Chinese. So the ultimate aim is to ensure that we reverse to status quo ante.” If that happens, he said, “there will be some kind of belief in each other, satisfaction that it’s not likely to lead to further escalation.”
Noting that reversing the status quo will be a gradual process, General Rawat said, “I’m quite sure both sides are looking to return to status quo ante. Let’s hope for the best because efforts are being made at all levels, be it political, diplomatic or at the military front.”
He said the lower commanders of both sides are “constantly in contact to make sure that the situation does not turn ugly”.
The border tensions in eastern Ladakh intensified last June, leading to the deaths of twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops in Galwan Valley.
Talks to restore the status quo prior to the standoff have been slow with twelve rounds of military dialogue being held on disengagement. There have been reports of military replenishments and buildup on the Chinese side.
Asked about reports that the Chinese military conducted exercises near eastern Ladakh, India’s CDS described the exercises as a “regular feature” on both sides.
“All armies, during peace time, carry out training activities and conduct of exercises is one such event,” CDS General Rawat said.
“Whenever you have new troops coming to the area, you normally familiarise them to their operational tasks. And the best way is to conduct exercises. This is what the Chinese are doing, and what we have been doing,” he pointed out.
“In our case, we frequent our borders more often, whereas on the Chinese side, they have a large conscript army. So it takes time for them to get acclimatised, get familiar with the terrain and kind of operations they’re expected to carry out in such high mountain areas,” General Rawat informed.
“We keep a close watch on them. And we are monitoring the situation very carefully. But exercises are a very regular feature and I think it should not be a cause for concern,” General Rawat said.
“But at the same time, we should not lower our guard. We have to continue to monitor the activities of the Chinese and make sure they do not come to the areas which have been vacated earlier,” he added.