Friday, 30 June 2017

Army chief visits Sikkim amid clashes between Indian and Chinese patrols

Indian patrols in Tri-Junction area pre-empting Chinese road building (above: Chinese bunkers at nearby Nathu La pass)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Jun 17

A physical confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops on the Sikkim-Tibet border has grabbed headlines in India after television channels played out a video recording of soldiers pushing and jostling each other during a patrol clash on June 17.

Business Standard learns from a usually reliable source on the ground that the clash was unusually acrimonious.

Contacted for verification, army spokespersons declined to comment. The ministry of external affairs, too, at a briefing on Thursday on the prime minister’s impending visit to Israel and the G-20, declined to answer questions.

While pushing and shoving is routine during patrol confrontations between Indian and Chinese patrols, no shots have been exchanged since India and China signed an “Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” in September 1993. The last fatal battle casualties on the LAC occurred in 1975, when four Assam Rifles jawans were shot dead by Chinese troops in the Mago area of Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh.

The patrol clash took place in the disputed “Tri-junction” area, where the borders of India (Sikkim), Bhutan and China join together. This is the high-altitude Dolam Plateau (Sinicized to “Doklam” by the Chinese), on which all three countries have territory. The incident reportedly took place on the Doko La ridge in the area.

The Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, visited Sikkim on Thursday to personally assess the situation.

The war of words gathered steam on Thursday, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesperson, Colonel Wu Qian, was asked for a response to General Rawat’s statement earlier this month that India was “fully ready” for a simultaneous war against China and Pakistan.

Qian responded: “We hope [that] particular person in [the] Indian Army could learn from historical lessons and stop clamouring for war.”

For India, the Sikkim border, including the Tri-junction, is extremely sensitive since a Chinese breakthrough here could reach, and block, the Siliguri corridor – a narrow, 27-kilometres wide strip of Indian territory that connects the entire north east with the rest of India. Chinese control over the Siliguri corridor could cut off the entire northeast.

To prevent this, India guards Sikkim heavily with two mountain divisions. A third division remains ready in wartime to guard Bhutan’s western border with China, so that Chinese troops cannot outflank Sikkim’s defences through Bhutan.

If China extracts more territory in the Tri-junction area, that would shorten the distance to Siliguri. It would also widen the mouth of the Chumbi Valley – a dagger-shaped salient of Chinese territory that protrudes southwards.

While the Indian army has safeguarded the Sikkim border, even through a major firefight in nearby Nathu La in1967, Chinese forces have systematically encroached into Bhutanese territory. This is done through a time-tested method of first sending in yak graziers with their herds, building temporary shelters, then military bunkers, and then citing those to claim ownership over the entire areas. Finally, a road is built to that area.


While the Indian army has remained silent over the recent incident, Beijing has been unusually vocal. On Monday, its foreign ministry spokesperson, while announcing the suspension of the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra pilgrimage through nearby Nathu La, revealed: “Recently, the Indian border troops crossed the China-India boundary at the Sikkim section and entered the Chinese territory, obstructing Chinese border troops' normal activities in Doklam. The Chinese side has taken proportionate measures in response.”

On Tuesday, Beijing put out a detailed rationale for its claim over Dolam, basing it on the “Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet”, dated 1890. Beijing claimed that India had accepted this rationale during the Special Representatives Dialogue.

On Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry noted that this clash was substantially different from clashes elsewhere on the LAC, in that the Sikkim boundary was clearly delineated. He said: “The Indian border troops overstepped the mutually recognized boundary line at the Sikkim section and crossed into the Chinese territory. That is essentially different from previous fictions (frictions) between the two troops (sic) in the border areas where the boundary is yet to be delimited.”

On Wednesday, Bhutan entered the fray. Since it does not have diplomatic relations with China, Bhutan’s envoy to India, Vetsop Namgyel, declared: “Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that, pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the area.”

China, which has been long irked by Bhutan’s closeness to India on matters relating to China, responded “The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn't belong to Bhutan. India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor it belongs to India.”

6 comments:

Alok Asthana said...

Reminiscent of 60s, when Nehru 'ordered' the army to throw out the Chinese. We mustn't provoke anyone, much less the Chinese, to please Trump or even Modi+Shah. None of these guys will pay the price.They simply don't have 'skin in the game'. In fact, Modi will only benefit from it, which ever way it goes.

Anonymous said...

We cannot contain/control chinese or Pakistan 's behaviour.
It is well known in politics any "peace treaty" is just time period to prepare for war.
Ten years of congress government has destroyed our war preparedness . This even while pakistan built solid bunkers in the west and china its infrastructure.
Nothing was decided from assault rifles to howitzers to fighter to helicopters to submarines.
I hope the ministers and the then MoD babus are punished for dereliction of duty.
If ministers were sitting on decisions or cancelling RFQs on anonymous reasons it is the duty of secretary of defence to bring to notice of the parliament .
Now the armed forces fight with what we have.

ComicProject said...

Again, the 60's would have turned out different if the Air Force was involved in a strategic way. China has expanded into Bhutan without firing bullets and will eventually pose a threat to India's "Chicken Neck", if not already. While war-mongering is no what is needed, letting guests claim the guest room as their own will only lead to disputes over the living room.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shuklaji.

Chinese statement that " India should learn from historical'''''" is in fact an acceptance and assertion of the fact that what ever Chinese have today in Tibet and with the boundary with India is a result of military aggression, violence and application of force rather than on any moral or diplomatic mutually agreed grounds. Consequent to the diplomatic and military disaster of 1962 India has not accepted their adverse possession specially of the claimed Indian territory astride the borders. Chinese intentions with respect to Sikkim are also clearly adversarial as proved by their actions in Northern plateau (karang), skirmishes around Indian passes and their boundary dispute with respect to Bhutan in spite of the border being mutually delimited. They have been poking and troubling Bhutan to grab favorable military position vis a vis India by grabbing territory along border with India. Chinese are not trustworthy with respect of agreements or treaties. India must not yield to such military threat or coercion.

bhadrakaali said...

@Alok Asthana

Since when have you joined Global Times of China as their commentetor

Anonymous said...

@let asthana sahab benefit from it.