The Indian Air Force (IAF) is aware of Chinese presence in parts of Ladakh and is alert to intrusions by Chinese military helicopters, including in the Galwan region of northeast Ladakh where Indian and Chinese soldiers are involved in a faceoff.
“(Chinese) helicopter activity has seen a spurt,” said the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria in an interview to NDTV. “Whenever there is activity, as per our standard operating procedures, we deploy aircraft to monitor. That was done. There was nothing there that we are not aware of,” he said.
At the same time, the IAF has not detected any large-scale or untoward movement of Chinese fighter aircraft in the Tibet region where Beijing has significantly built up its military infrastructure in the last decade.
Last month, Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in one of their most hostile clashes with soldiers clashing in hand-to-hand fighting in North Sikkim and along the east bank of Pangong lake in Ladakh. There are reports of injuries on both sides.
The situation to the north of Pangong, along the Galwan river basin, is a major cause of concern for military planners in New Delhi. Chinese and Indian soldiers are involved in a faceoff in this region with both sides rushing additional forces there.
On Tuesday, the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, said Chinese border troops have bolstered their defences in the Galwan Valley region in north Ladakh “and made necessary moves in response to India’s recent, illegal construction of defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region”. The article refers to the situation as “the strongest military response to India’s illegal trespassing incident along the border since the Doklam standoff.”
In 2017, Indian and Chinese soldiers were locked in their biggest face-off since the 1962 war when Indian Army prevented Chinese workers from constructing a road in Doklam, a contested part of Bhutan, east of Sikkim. Both sides de-escalated tensions after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in the Wuhan summit in April 2018.
Neither the Army nor the Foreign Ministry have responded to requests for comment on the claims made in the Global Times report.
On May 15, Army Chief General MM Naravane had attempted to play down differences between India and China. “It is only at one or two places where this has happened. And this does happen from time to time. It also happens when there is a change of commanders on ground,” he said.