Chinese intrusions into Indian territory
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An intrusion by a detachment of 10-15 Chinese troops took place in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district on July 25, just three days before national security adviser Ajit Doval's visit to Beijing for a BRICS meeting, even as the standoff in Doklam remains unresolved.
Government sources played down the transgressions in Barahoti in Chamoli, saying similar incidents had occurred in the past and were sorted out by local commanders. But the incident showed that Chinese soldiers continue to intrude across the Line of Actual Control in different sectors to lay claim to disputed areas.
Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand told TOI, “No incursion has happened in Barahoti as is being claimed. Such reports are in correct.“ Col Anand added, “Transgressions do happen but they are mainly due to differing perceptions of LAC .“
The Uttarakhand state government has, however, ordered an inquiry . Government spokesperson Madan Kaushik said, “At present, we are not aware of this incident, but we can't completely deny it.“ The Barahoti incident saw 10-15 PLA soldiers “transgress“ almost one km into a disputed pocket -a mutually agreed `demilitarized zone' -on July 25.Though they left around two hours later, sources said a similar incident took place in the same area on Sunday as well.
Government sources, however, did not read too much into the intrusions. “Transgressions occur due to differing perceptions between India and China about where the LAC actually lies, right from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. Around 300 such transgressions by the PLA are recorded every year,“ said a source. China remains adamant about Indian troops unilaterally withdrawing from the ongoing face-off in the Doklam area, which is actually Bhutanese territory but coveted by China. The Doklam imbroglio is different from usual transgressions across the LAC since it is located in a third country (Bhutan), and India has reinforced its military posture near the tri-junction in the face of escalating rhetoric from China.
Indian and Chinese armies conduct `aggressive patrolling' along all three sectors of the 4,057-km LAC -western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal). Eastern Ladakh, in particular, has remained a major flashpoint.
Transgressions in the middle sector are rare. On July 25, Chinese troops entered the disputed area in Barahoti to threaten Indian shepherds grazing cattle in the area around 9am, ITBP officials said. After ITBP troops reached the spot, the Chinese troops quietly went back to their territory. But they returned on Sunday morning, before leaving once again.
While Indian soldiers do not enter the demilitarised Barahoti zone, an 80 sq km sloping pasture about 140 km from Dehradun, ITBP troops patrol the area with their weapons in a non-combative mode.
India and China in 1958 had listed Barahoti as a disputed area where neither side would send their troops. In the 1962 war, the PLA did not enter the middle sector and focused on western and eastern ones.
In 2000, India had unilaterally agreed that ITBP troops would not carry arms in the three posts of Barahoti as well as Kaurik and Shipki (Himachal). ITBP men, in fact, often patrol in civil dress in the area.
Dec: Upper Siang (Arunachal Pradesh)
Chinese track-alignment and excavation activity near Bishing was first detected in December.
The Chinese personnel retreated after being stopped by Indian troops.
Such transgressions across the LAC are highly unusual in the winter months.
Chinese road construction personnel intruded almost one kilometre into the Indian territory in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in late December but retreated after being stopped by Indian troops, who seized their two excavators and other equipment.
Indian security establishment officials on Wednesday, however, played down this yet another incident of China ratcheting up pressure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite the disengagement of rival troops from the 73-day face-off at Doklam+ near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction on August 28.
"There is no troop confrontation at the site near the Bishing village in Tuting area of Arunachal's Upper Siang district. It's not a Doklam-like situation. The issue is being resolved through the established coordination mechanism (flag and border personnel meetings) between the two countries ... the Chinese will be asked to take their road-construction equipment back," said an official.
But such road alignment and construction bids as well as troop transgressions across the LAC, which stretches from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, are highly unusual in the winter months.
Already, around 1,600-1,800 Chinese troops have established a permanent presence in the Bhutanese territory of Doklam, with the construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, scores of pre-fabricated huts, shelters and stores to withstand the chill in the high-altitude region, as reported by TOI earlier+ .
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in Beijing said his country had "never acknowledged the existence of so-called Arunachal Pradesh", while maintaining he was "unaware" about any Chinese intrusion in the Tuting area last month.
Indian officials, however, said the Chinese track-alignment and excavation activity near Bishing was first detected in late December by some villagers.
On being alerted, a joint Army-ITBP patrol trekked to the hilly area along the Siang river (which takes a 'S'-shaped turn into Arunachal) to confront the Chinese road-construction personnel and deflate the tyres of their excavators on December 28. "The handful of Chinese personnel present went back to their own side of the LAC on the same day after being told to do so. There was no face-off," said the official.
The Tuting area, incidentally, has never been a "hotspot" for India-China border tensions. Both armies undertake regular patrols to lay claim to "8-10 disputed areas" along the border in Arunachal Pradesh like Asaphila, a remote 100 sq km area in Upper Subansiri division of the state, and the so-called "Fish Tail-I and II" areas in Chaglagam sector, which take its name from the shape the LAC takes in the region.
India maintains a strong military presence in Arunachal Pradesh, with as many as four infantry divisions (over 40,000 soldiers) geared for its defence from China. Moreover, the IAF has activated six advanced landing grounds (ALGs) at Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Along, Ziro and Tuting in the state over the last few years for fast mobility of troops and supplies to remote areas in the state. The ALG at the small town of Tuting, for instance, was inaugurated in December 2016.
After the Doklam stand-off was diffused, with the rival troops withdrawing to around 500 meters apart, Army chief General Bipin Rawat had warned that China will continue with its efforts to nibble away disputed territories through "salami slicing", muscle-flexing and other measures.