No let up in India-China face offs in Ladakh

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By: Shujaat Bukhari

A leading national TV channel created a stir on Thursday by telecasting the footage of a face-off between Indian and Chinese armies in Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh. It apparently showed the Indian Army in a helpless position as they were virtually treating their Chinese counterparts with kid gloves. If the sources are to be believed the video footage is two year old but the channel chose to crack a whip on the government for being“soft” towards China. Many people may not agree with what is being shown and discussed on that particular channel but one thing is clear that India has not been too aggressive against China, when it comes to their intrusion whether in Arunachal Pradesh or in Ladakh sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

Notwithstanding a forward movement in the engagement between two countries at the political level, the instigating posture of China on the borders remains the same. The three week long stand off between the two armies in Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in the month of April was something which really shook the Indians as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China refused to vacate the area, they claim belongs to China. On April 15, 2013, a platoon-sized contingent of the Chinese army set up a camp in Raki Nula, 30 km south of Daulat Beg Oldi near the Aksai Chin-Ladakh LAC. The PLA vacated the area after 20 days of intense negotiation between the two countries. On July 16 and 19 Chinese troops had entered deep into Indian territory in Chumar and Demchok areas, located 300 km from Leh. It was raised by Indian side in Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) on July 27 and objections to the incursions were flagged and concern was expressed over a construction of a tower being in the Chinese side on the LAC in Demchok-Fukhche sector. The Indian side had said the construction was in violation of Peace and Tranquality Agreement signed between the two countries in 1993.

The tension on India-China border has not eased and the way both the countries are getting conscious about the “threat” to “their territories”has actually worsened the situation. A just concluded visit to Ladakh by this writer could prove an insight into what was happening in the desert region, which has of late attracted the attention of policy makers in India. A three member team of National Security Advisory Board headed by its chairman and former Foreign Secretary Sham Saran visited both Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh on August to get the first hand account of what was happening in the region. Saran’s team visited Daulat Beg Oldi, Demchok in south of Aksai Chin, Chumur and Pangong lake areas. Saran’s visit was significant as it was not only to boost the morale of the troops in Ladakh but also to send a veiled message to China as to how seriously India had taken the violations. During his meetings with politicians of Leh, Saran is believed to have been told in clear terms that the issue of demarcating the borders with China should be settled once for all. “We strongly believe that we are the real sufferers and we have conveyed to Delhi that the demarcation issue should be resolved and all routes of trade in the region should be thrown open” an influential politician told this writer.

The demarcation has been an issue, which has, not be resolved for decades now. The last demarcation, which is in force, was perhaps done way back in 1911. On British India maps it was Johnson-Ardagh and the Macartney-MacDonald lines which were used to define the areas. Until at least 1908, the British took the Macdonald line to be the boundary, but in 1911, the Xinhai Revolution resulted in the collapse of central power in China, and by the end of World War I, the British officially used the Johnson Line. Even after 1962 war, no line was drawn, thus the threat of violation of either side continued to loom large. While China claims about 90,000 square kilometres of land in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometres in the Aksai Chin plateau. India and China have held 15 rounds of talks over their border dispute since 2005 but failed to reach any agreement, highlighting the deep-going nature of the dispute.

Since China has done a full scale development on its side with black topped roads, electricity and other facilities reaching to the last point, India has not been able do much. After the recurring incursion from China and also the Kargil war in 1999, which took India by surprise, a huge build up has been taking place on the Indian side in Ladakh. Soon after the war a separate Corps of the Army was carved out of 15 Corps headquarters in Srinagar to strengthen the supervisory grid. An Armoured regiment has also been functional in the area and deployment has increased. With these steps of build up and India’s keenness to develop the roads to the last point, China has apparently been panicked with these developments and is all set to frustrate the Indian plans. Though India has been seemingly soft on this issue, downplaying the incursions and violations, of late it has started exhibiting its “power”.The Indian Air Force on Tuesday

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