The Indian Army has agreed to examine the “complaint” from the People’s Liberation Army against some of the Indian military structures that they want removed in the Ladakh region.
The minor concession to China comes after three rounds of flag meetings between the two sides since April 15 in which the PLA commanders raised the issue of Indian military structures and sought that these be brought down. This, India hopes, will ease tension that has been building up in Ladakh, where the two sides have been indulging in a ‘drill’ by putting up banners that ask the other side to move away from the location and making a strong claim over that territory.
At the three flag meetings since the standoff began, the Chinese side had raised the red flag on both major and minor Indian military infrastructure and asked for these to be dismantled before they moved back from the standoff point at Raki Nullah on Debsang bulge in northern Ladakh. “However, we have not given any firm assurance on removal of any infrastructure along LAC,” an officer in the flag meeting discussions said here.
Among the objections that the Chinese have included the reopening of the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip about 30 km northwest of the Raki Nullah where the PLA troopers intruded on April 15 to pitch tents and have stayed put for the past 15 days now. DBO is key infrastructure in northern Ladakh that the Indian Air Force (IAF) revived in the Ladakh region, after it remained unused for nearly 40 years. India had last used the DBO in the 1962 Sino-Indian war and is a key infrastructure to help airlift and land Indian troopers close to the LAC.
IAF had in May 2008 reactivated the DBO airstrip, from where Ukrainian-made AN-32 transport aircraft can land and take off, but cannot be based due to lack of other infrastructure such as a hanger. Since then, IAF reactivated two more airstrips, or Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) as they are called in defence parlance, at Fuk Che in eastern Ladakh and at Nyoma in southern Ladakh in November 2008 and September 2009 respectively.
While Nyoma, due to its strategic location, is being developed into a full-fledged air base that will be capable of fighter aircraft operations in the future. Fuk Che, which is just 23 km away from the LAC, will be remain a temporary airstrip, as its location is quite easily visible from the Chinese side.
Other structures that the Chinese wanted removed include a few bunkers along the LAC and temporary shelters for patrolling soldiers. Sources said, the Chinese side asked the Indian troopers to tone down “aggressive patrolling” in the area.
Meanwhile, the two armies held their Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) was held on the Chinese side of the LAC in the Chushul sector. An annual meeting on May 1, soldiers from the two sides have a friendly interaction with food and gaming every year. The current standoff was not raised or discussed at the BPM, sources said.