STATE TIMES NEWSNew Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Ladakh on Friday to take stock of the country’s military preparedness and review the overall situation, government sources said on Wednesday, as India and China move to finalise a framework for a complete disengagement at friction points on their border.
Armed forces get special powers for individual procurement worth Rs 300 Cr New Delhi: In view of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh, the defence ministry on Wednesday granted special powers to the three services for individual capital procurement programme worth Rs 300 crore to meet emergent operational requirements, officials said. They said there was no cap on the number of procurement programmes and that each acquisition under the emergency requirement category should not cost more than Rs 300 crore. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. “The DAC delegated the powers for progressing urgent capital acquisition cases of up to Rs 300 crore to the armed forces to meet their emergent operational requirements,” the defence ministry said in a statement. The decision, it said, will shrink the procurement timelines and ensure placement of orders within six months and commencement of deliveries within one year. It said the special meeting of the DAC was convened considering the prevailing security environment along the northern borders and the need to strengthen the armed forces for the defence of the country’s borders. The three services have started buying a range of military equipment, weapons and platforms in the last few weeks in the midst of the tense border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
Singh will be accompanied by Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane and it will be his first visit to Ladakh after the standoff between the armies of India and China on the Line of Actual Control(LAC) began on May 5. Singh’s trip comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Ladakh on July 3 during which he also addressed troops and signalled the country’s firmness in dealing with the India-China border row. The sources said Singh will carry out a comprehensive review of the security situation in the region with Gen Naravane, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Yogesh Kumar Joshi, Commander of the 14 Corps Lt Gen Harinder Singh and other senior Army officials. From Ladakh, the defence minister will travel to Srinagar where he will hold a high-level meeting with senior military officials on Saturday to review the situation along the Line of Control(LoC)with Pakistan, the sources said.
Singh was originally scheduled to visit Ladakh on July 3 but it was deferred.
Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for over eight weeks since May 5.
The tension escalated manifold after the violent clashes in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were martyred.
However, following a series of diplomatic and military talks, the two sides began a mutual disengagement process on July 6 and withdrew troops from most of the friction points.
On Tuesday, senior commanders of the the two armies held a fourth round of talks during which the Indian delegation conveyed a “very clear” message to the Chinese army that status quo must ante be restored in eastern Ladakh and China will have to follow all mutually agreed protocols for border management to bring back peace and tranquillity along the LAC, government sources said.
During the course of the intense and complex negotiations that lasted nearly 15 hours, the Indian delegation apprised the Chinese Army about the “red lines” and conveyed that the onus was largely on China to improve the overall situation in the region, the sources said.
The key focus of the talks was learnt to be on rolling out the phase two of the disengagement process besides firming up modalities for withdrawal of forces and weapons from the rear bases in a time-bound and verifiable manner, the sources said, adding they were aimed at further de-escalation of the situation at various friction points.
The two sides agreed on certain modalities for rolling out the next phase of disengagement and are expected to get in touch with each other after discussing agreed points with the higher authorities of both sides, the sources said.
The fourth round of Lt General-level talks began around 11 AM on Tuesday at a designated meeting point in Chushul on the Indian side of the LAC, they said. There was no official word on the outcome of the talks.
The Indian delegation was led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese side was headed by Major General Liu Lin, Commander of the South Xinjiang military region.
Army Chief Gen MM Naravane was apprised about the details of the negotiations following which he held discussions with senior military officers. He is scheduled to hold another meeting with a number of senior military officers later in the day.
Tuesday’s discussions were the longest negotiations between the two armies after the tense standoff that began on May 5. The third round of Lt General-level talks on June 30 lasted 12 hours. During this round, both sides agreed on an “expeditious, phased and step wise” de-escalation as a “priority” to end the standoff.
The sources said the main focus of the latest round was on finalising a framework for a “time-bound and verifiable” disengagement process from all the friction points like Pangong Tso and Depsang and pulling back large numbers of troops and weapons from rear bases along the LAC as part of modalities for further de-esalation.
“It was clearly conveyed to China that it must follow all the relevant provisions of agreements and protocols that govern management of the border by both the sides,” they said.
The Indian side insisted on “total restoration” of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to May 5 when the standoff began following a clash between the troops of the two countries in Pangong Tso, they said.
The Indian delegation also conveyed concerns over China’s “new claim lines” in the region, and insisted that Beijing must adhere to earlier framework on carrying out patrolling in the areas, the sources said.
The talks took place days after implementation of the first phase of the disengagement process from the friction points.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has already completed pulling back troops from Gogra, Hot Springs and Galwan Valley and significantly thinned down its presence in the ridgeline of Finger Four in the Pangong Tso area in the last one week as demanded by India.
In line with a mutually agreed decision, the two sides created a minimum buffer zone of three kilometres in most of the friction points where they were locked in a standoff.
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