File image: Satellite images released on February 17 showing China having dismantled dozens of structures and moved vehicles to empty out camps near the Pangong Tso, along the Line of Actual Control (Image: Satellite image by Maxar Technologies via Reuters)
China still has not withdrawn from many forward positions it has held since the clashes with Indian Army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Hindustan Times reported citing a top United States military commander’s statement at a congressional hearing on March 9.
Admiral Philip S. Davidson, who commands the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command, told lawmakers that the United States had helped India during the border conflict by providing information, cold-weather clothing and other equipment.
“The PLA (China’s People’s Liberation Army) has not yet withdrawn from several forward positions it seized following the initial clash, and the consequent escalation of tensions between the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and India has resulted in casualties on both sides,” the news report quoted Davidson as saying.
The US military official further described China’s aggression along the LAC in Ladakh as a manifestation of Beijing’s “expansionary territorial ambitions”, the report said.
Davidson reportedly added that the “large-scale mobilisation - which is particularly notable considering the elevation, terrain and distance involved - has stoked regional concerns that the PRC will increasingly use force to achieve desired outcomes”.
In February, it was announced that both sides had started disengagement around the Pangong Lake following long negotiations.
As part of the disengagement agreement, China will keep its troops to the east of Finger 8 at the north bank of Pangong Lake and India will keep its troops at its permanent base near Finger 3, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had informed Parliament.
Satellite imagery of some areas on the northern bank of Pangong Tso from February 16 supplied by Maxar Technologies had shown that multiple Chinese military camps, which were present till late January, had been removed.
Holding the PLA responsible for starting the stand-off that has lasted more than nine months, Davidson said that the tensions were “predicated by clashes over construction activities near the disputed border”.
Davidson reportedly suggested that the border tensions with China “opened their (India’s) eyes to what cooperative effort with others might mean for their own defensive needs”. “I think you’ll see India in the very near term, you know, remain committed to their non-aligned approach, but I think they will deepen their engagement with the Quad, and I think that’s a key strategic opportunity for us, Australia and Japan,” the US admiral was quoted as saying.
His remarks came around the same times as India and the United States confirmed the first ever leader-level Quad summit
on March 12. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending the meeting virtually along with US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga.