The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China is “stable” but “unpredictable,” Army chief General Manoj Pande said on Thursday, even as he revealed that there has been a “slight increase” in the deployment of Chinese PLA in eastern command. General Pande, however, said they are “keeping an eye” on it and have adequate force to tackle any situation.

General Pande, during his annual press meet, accepted that the situation at the northern border, which has been a theatre of conflict with China since it got aggravated after the Galwan face-off in May of 2020, remains a “challenge” for India. He however maintained that the two neighbors had been able to resolve five of the seven friction points along the LAC and continued to engage in talks through military and diplomatic channels to sort out the remaining issues.

On Northern sector

On a question posed by businessline on the latest position in the northern sector, especially eastern Ladakh, the Army Chief said “there has been a slight increase in eastern command,” but he assured that troops, including reserves, have been adequately deployed to deal with any eventuality.

He also insisted that “the troops deployed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have been able to maintain a robust posture and prevent any adverse attempt to change unilaterally the status quo.”

Much of the queries the Army chief faced were concentrated on China, though he spoke on a variety of issues, ranging from manpower transformation through the induction of Agniveers, induction of new technology, capability enhancement, and the jointness of the tri-services.

India-Pakistan ceasefire

He expressed satisfaction that the ceasefire agreement with Pakistan, signed in February 2021, is “holding well” and that there has been a “marked reduction in violence” in Jammu and Kashmir. General Pande, however, stated that the cross-border infiltration has shifted to the south of the Pir Panjal range and is happening through the International Border (IB) area of the Jammu region, which saw recent killings targeted at minorities. In 2022, there have been 12 instances of infiltration and 18 people were shot dead. The Army chief stated to drive home the point that the counter-infiltration grid is working well.

He was also of the view that the situation in the North East is returning to normal as disturbed areas in three States, Assam and Nagaland, have also been squeezed.

On gender neutrality

He also told the media about the steps that have been taken to make the Army gender neutral and said that women are “performing well.” The Army, he revealed, has sent a proposal to the government for the induction of women in the artillery, and the process of giving permanent commission to women is on.

The General stated that 25 to 28 Army buildings have developed minor cracks and troops have been relocated to temporary shelters. The road from Joshimath leading to the border with China has also suffered minor damages, which the Border Roads Organisation is trying to repair, he said while expressing his willingness to assist the civil administration in this hour of need.