Things are not all that quiet on the India-China border despite the laboured bonhomie between the two Asian powers. For the first time after the Sumdorong Chu incident in Arunachal Pradesh in 1987, which almost led to a war, a face-off on the western sector of the vexed boundary in Ladakh has sent shockwaves across the diplomatic and security establishments of the country.
Recently, a major confrontation with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China was averted by the timely intervention of senior officers from an Indian patrol team.
The incident took place on May 16 inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the western sector of India-China boundary at Demchok, northeast of Ladakh. Insiders say PLA soldiers chased away Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) personnel, who were verifying claims of Chinese intrusions near the Chardung-Nillung junction on the LAC.
The IB team was accompanied by the army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police soldiers, who were closely engaged and followed by the Chinese patrols in three vehicles. Chinese soldiers, say sources, even hurled abuses and shouted, “Indians go back.” They assumed position to fire at the Indians near the Chardung nullah.
The Chinese then called another patrol party and chased the Indian groups. This border drama, which could have escalated into a clash with dangerous diplomatic consequences, unfolded at a time when the relationship between the two countries was passing through a ‘blow hot, blow cold’ phase. The seriousness of this border skirmish can be judged from the fact that in 1967, it was an accidental firing at Nathula that led to a war between the two neighbours.
“How can the Government say there is no tension on the India-China boundary? Such incidents can escalate into a conflict situation. It needs to be taken seriously and tackled by holding more border level meetings and then taking it to a political level,” says former army chief General V.P. Malik. Sources say that the confidential report on the incident reveals that the Chinese troops had written abuses directed at Indians on trees in the region.
Despite India’s diplomatic protests, the Chinese intrusions have only increased. This year alone, 90 intrusions have been reported to the Government by various security and border agencies. India has been repeatedly complaining to Beijing. In April this year, PLA troops came 12 kilometres inside Maja in Arunachal Pradesh.
Also see India-China border deployment
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