NEW DELHI: Despite the reset expected in Sino-Indian relations after the informal summit in Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on April 27-28, there has been no let up in Chinese incursions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The summit, which followed a 74-day standoff (16 Jun-28 Aug 2017) at Doklam last year, was touted as a major success by both sides, but failed to come to an agreement on how to permanently resolve the seven-decade-old border dispute. The main reason being China’s dogged refusal to share its perception of the 4,057-km LAC, which stretches from eastern Ladakh in Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
In a series of oral depositions before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs after the Doklam standoff, former foreign secretary S Jaishankar and his successor Vijay Gokhale were candid in their assessment of the situation.
“The fact of the matter is that there is no commonly delineated LAC. The fact of the matter is also that... not just this Government, but previous governments have also repeatedly proposed to the Chinese side that we should strive to develop a common understanding of the alignment of the LAC. The Chinese side has not responded positively to these requests...” Gokhale told the panel in February, 2018.
Describing it as “the world’s largest real estate dispute,” his predecessor Jaishankar told the panel in October 2017, “... I would say that the Committee should not have an expectation that the transgressions will somehow go away. It is because as we build our border infrastructure, there will be a little bit of action-reaction...”
There are 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” identified on the LAC which witness frequent transgressions and face-offs. Last month, there were reports that People’s Liberation Army (Chinese Army) troops, disguised as nomads, intruded around half a kilometre inside the Demchok sector in eastern Ladakh. The other disputed areas in Ladakh include Trig Heights, Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), and Pangong Tso.
“The ITBP [Indo Tibetan Border Police] is constrained in Trig Heights and DBO due to a lack of matching mobility. The PLA patrols in vehicles while the ITBP has to do so on foot. In Pangong Tso, the Chinese boat patrols operate and are met with Indian Army boats which turn them back. When Indian Army boats go to the point where the LAC crosses the Chinese boats come to stop them,” said Lt Gen (retd) Jiti Bajwa, editor of the Indian Defence Review and an author of a book on the PLA.
“The Chinese too claim Indian incursions in areas which we consider as our legitimate right to patrol up to... Attributing deeper motives to either side is facile and just paranoia,” he added.