India beefs up forces on de facto border with China, says President Ram Nath Kovind

The face-off began in early May last year following a clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers near Pangong lake
Last Updated 29 January 2021, 11:17 IST

Against the backdrop of the Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday said the government is "vigilant" and that additional forces have also been deployed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to protect the sovereignty of the country.

In an address to a joint sitting of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget session, Kovind, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said when India was grappling with the Covid-19 crisis last year attempts were made to challenge its capability at the border.

"Efforts were made to disrupt the peace at LAC in utter disregard of bilateral relations and agreements. However, our security forces not only responded to these machinations with promptitude, force and courage, but also foiled all attempts to change the status quo at the border," he said.

"The restraint, valour and courage displayed by our jawans, deserve utmost praise. In June 2020, twenty of our jawans made the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives defending the country at Galwan Valley. Every citizen is deeply indebted to these martyrs."

Close to 1,00,000 Indian and Chinese troops are deployed in eastern Ladakh as both sides have been holding on to their ground and showing readiness for a long-haul, amid continuing diplomatic and military talks to find an amicable solution.

"My Government is vigilant and fully committed to safeguard the interests of the country. Additional forces have also been deployed at the LAC to protect the sovereignty of India," President Kovind said.

The face-off began in early May last year following a clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers near Pangong lake. The tension escalated in eastern Ladakh following the Galwan Valley clash on June 15 that resulted in large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both the armies at the friction points.

China is yet to disclose the number of its soldiers killed and injured in the clash though it officially admitted to have suffered casualties. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

At the ninth round of military talks last week, India and China agreed to push for an early disengagement of troops and resolved to continue "effective efforts" to stabilise and control the situation in eastern Ladakh.

In his address, President Kovind also talked about the government's efforts to further boost India's military preparedness.

"Keeping in mind the larger role that India is set to play in the future, my government is intent on strengthening our military preparedness," he said.

"A range of modern armaments are being procured to enhance the capabilities of India's armed forces. There is also a thrust on achieving self-reliance in the defence sector."

The President also referred to the government approving a mega defence deal to procure 83 Tejas light combat aircraft from the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

"Only a few days back, the government has placed an order with HAL for procurement of 83 indigenous fighter aircraft Tejas worth Rs 48,000 crore. Imports of more than 100 items linked to defence have been prohibited in order to promote 'Make in India'," he said.

Similarly, he said several advanced weapons including supersonic torpedoes, quick reaction missiles, tanks and indigenous rifles are being manufactured in India.

India is now also rapidly increasing its share in the exports of defence equipment, he added.

In August last, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that India will stop the import of 101 weapons and military platforms like transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems by 2024.

Subsequently, the defence ministry released the first list of items, with a detailed timeline, whose import won't be allowed. The decision was aimed at promoting the domestic defence industry.

President Kovind also talked about the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) last year saying the country has started benefitting from it.

The post was created to bring in convergence in the functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force in dealing with national security challenges.

Gen Bipin Rawat became India's first CDS on January 1 last year.

A key mandate of the CDS was also to facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of theatre commands. The CDS has been part of the top military brass framing strategies to enhance India's military prowess in view of the Ladakh standoff with China.

The President also said women's participation in the Armed Forces is increasing.

(Published 29 January 2021, 07:38 IST)

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