IAF airbases in NE on high alert

India continues to pump in additional troops and weapon systems on the entire eastern front in face of continuing belligerence from China on the Doklam stand-off, even as diplomatic and military channels are being utilised in a bid to defuse the almost two month-old crisis.

A top-level flag meeting between major-general rank officers from India and China was held at the Nathu La border personnel meeting point in Sikkim for the first time on Friday , following the failure of a similar meet between brigade commanders on August 8 to break the deadlock.

But the latest meeting also proved “inconclusive“ with China remaining adamant that India should immediately withdraw troops from the Bhutanese territory of Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. “The Indian side held China should first remove its road construction equipment from the site. Both sides will now report back to their headquarters,“ said a source.

The meeting between top military officers indicates a line of communication at the ground level and efforts to exchange perceptions and possibly explore means to contain the confrontation.

The Army has steadily but stealthily moved troops to their “operational alert areas“ on the borders with China in Sikkim and Arunachal, while also maintaining high operational readiness of its other formations and units all along the 4,057-km long LAC stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal.

India's troop mobilisation comes in response to muscle flexing by China, which has amassed troops, tanks and artillery in the Tibet Military District. “While the People's Liberation Army is showing its teeth in a bid to make us cower down, we have cranked up our caution levels,“ said a source.

But at the actual face-off site located at an altitude of over 11,000-feet in Doklam, which China is keen to grab from Bhutan to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, there are still only 300-350 soldiers ranged against each other. The PLA has deployed another 1,500 soldiers just beyond the standoff site as part of its aggressive posture.

In sharp contrast to China's belligerence and threats of military reprisals, through both its officials and state-controlled media, India has chosen to remain largely tight-lipped about the entire face-off from the beginning. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, in fact, had recently stressed the need for both sides to mutually withdraw their troops from Doklam simultaneously .

At least two flag meetings were also held earlier between the local commanders after Indian troops had proactively blocked the attempt by the PLA to construct a motorable road in Doklam on on June 18, but they had proved futile with both armies refusing to budge.

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