NEW DELHI: The government on Friday for the first time admitted that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops had intruded as much as 19 km inside Indian territory to pitch their tents there, even as it kept a third flag meeting between local commanders in eastern Ladakh “on hold” to give China “time and space” to withdraw its soldiers on its own.
This formal admission came in a note submitted by defence secretary Shashikant Sharma to the parliamentary standing committee on defence, which said India has “deployed forces to keep a close watch on the border” after over 30 PLA troops intruded 19 km into the Depsang Bulge area of Ladakh on April 15.
With rival soldiers locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation for the last 11 days at an altitude of 16,300 feet, this is the worst-ever standoff between the armies in over 25 years. Amid the flurry of top-level meetings among defence minister A K Antony, national security advisor Shivshankar Menon and Army chief General Bikram Singh on Friday, contingency plans to plug operational gaps and defences in Chumar, Spanggur Gap and the areas surrounding Depsang Valley were also reviewed.
The IAF, too, resumed its air-dropping of supplies to Army troops on the ground in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector after they were briefly stopped in wake of the “deep” Chinese intrusion.
Sources said India is “not in a hurry” to hold another flag meeting in Ladakh after the first two such meets on April 18 and April 23 failed to break the deadlock and ended with only charges being traded between the two armies. China, in fact, is believed to have now asked for a flag meeting but India has kept the request “pending” to see if diplomatic channels being worked deliver results over the next few days.