India bringing in more troops, weapon systems as China continues its sabre-rattling
But the meeting also proved "inconclusive" with China remaining adamant that India should immediately withdraw its troops from the Bhutanese territory of Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. "The Indian side held China should first remove its road construction equipment from the site. Both sides will now report back to their headquarters," said a source. The meeting between top military officers indicates a line of communication at the ground level and efforts to exchange perceptions and possibly explore means to contain the confrontation. The Army has steadily but stealthily moved troops to their "operational alert areas" on the borders with China in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, while also maintaining high operational readiness of its other formations and units all along the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal, as was reported by TOI earlier.
In the eastern theatre, this primarily includes the 33 Corps headquartered in Sukna, with the 17 (Gangtok), 27 (Kalimpong) and 20 (Binnaguri) Mountain Divisions under its control. Each division has 10,000-15,000 soldiers who have undergone acclimatization for the high-altitude forward areas. The 3 Corps (Dimapur) and 4 Corps (Tezpur), with similar infantry and mountain divisions under them, have also been activated as a precautionary move. IAF airbases in the North-East are also maintaining a high operational alert, with "combat air patrols" on a regular basis, said sources. India's troop mobilisation comes in response to muscle-flexing by China, which has amassed troops, tanks and artillery in the Tibet Military District. "While the People's Liberation Army is showing its teeth in a bid to make us cower down, we have cranked up our caution levels," said a source.
But at the actual faceoff site located at an altitude of over 11,000-feet in Doklam, which China is keen to grab from Bhutan to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, there are still only 300-350 soldiers ranged against each other. The PLA has deployed another 1,500 soldiers just beyond the standoff site as part of its aggressive posture. Defence minister ArunJaitley, incidentally, assured Lok Sabha on Friday that the Indian armed forces are geared for all contingencies, while responding to questions on Chinese troop movements in Tibet and the Army vice-chief's statement that Pakistan's indigenous defence production industry was better than India's. "Our defence forces are ready to take on any eventuality," he said, without making any specific reference to to Doklam.
In sharp contrast to China's belligerence and threats of military reprisals, through both its officials and state-controlled media, India has chosen to remain largely tight-lipped about the entire faceoff from the beginning. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in fact, had recently stressed the need for both sides to mutually withdraw their troops from Doklam simultaneously.