China Again Pokes Ladakh


LEH/NEW DELHI: Chinese troops have made several attempts to enter Indian waters at Pangong lake in the higher reaches of Ladakh with the latest incident reported on Friday, 27 June. These attempts follow earlier foiled bids to enter through the land route. Interestingly, this comes only a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping feted neighbours India and Myanmar on Saturday, 28 June, in the Chinese capital Beijing, dusting off the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel- the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. 

Reuters reports that addressing a gathering in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People, including Myanmar President Thein Sein and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the Chinese President said China would never try to impose its will no matter how strong it becomes. “China does not subscribe to the notion that a country is bound to seek hegemony when it grows in strength. Hegemony or militarism is not in the genes of the Chinese. China will unswervingly pursue peaceful development because it is good for China, good for Asia and good for the world,” Xi said.

“The notion of dominating international affairs belongs to a different age, and such attempts are doomed to failure,” Xi added, in a speech strong on broad, vague statements about peace though short on detail.

Despite the Chinese President’s statements, PTI reports that according to reports reaching various government agencies in New Delhi and Leh, the Indian Army had a face-off with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as recent as June 27 in the lake when their troops tried to enter the Indian waters.

The incursions took place in eastern Ladakh and on the northern bank of Pangong Lake, located 168km from Leh, sources said.

Udhampur-based Northern Command Army spokesman Col S Goswami declined to answer a query from PTI about the latest incursion attempts and instead was asked to “approach PRO (Army)”.

However, he did not reply when it was pointed out that he was the spokesperson of the Army.

The spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs when asked about reports of fresh incursions by Chinese troops in Ladakh region merely said Indian soldiers guarding the country’s borders will be able to provide an appropriate response should any incident occur on the border.

According to sources privy to the development, Chinese troops were intercepted at the imaginary line that is supposed to be the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the lake and sent back after the face-off drill during which the army personnel on both sides wave banners claiming it to be their territory.

The Chinese patrols reportedly came through frequently from the northern and southern banks of this lake, whose 45 km stretch is on the Indian side while another 90 km is on the Chinese side. However, every attempt was foiled by the Army which has been equipped with new boats.

The high-speed interceptor boats, that were bought from the US, can accommodate nearly 15 soldiers and are equipped with radars, infra-red and GPS systems. These boats are stated to be as good as the Chinese vessels and are used to conduct reconnaissance and area domination patrols.

The sources said the Chinese patrol boats were backed up by PLA troops from the banks of the lake and the move was apparently to put psychological pressure on the Indian troops who man the area.

The situation along the banks of the lake has always remained volatile with Chinese troops being intercepted by Indian Army patrol several times after the three-week long stand-off in the Depsang plains of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in May last year.

The areas where the face-off frequently occurred included the Finger-VIII area, also known as Siri Jap. China has managed to construct a road up to Finger-IV area which also falls under Siri Jap area and is five km deep into the LAC, the sources said.

On the subject of frontier defence, China’s official Xinhua news agency late on Friday quoted the Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying “Talking about frontier defence, one cannot help thinking about China’s modern history when the country was so weak and destitute that it was for everyone to bully.”

“Foreign aggressors broke China’s land and sea defences hundreds of times, plunging the Chinese nation into the abysm of calamity,” Xi added, calling on people not to forget the “history of humiliation” and strengthen the borders, especially at sea.

Still, Reuters reports that Xi was warm in his praise for India, whose new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to strengthen India’s armed forces and economy, in part to enable him to react more decisively in foreign relations than his predecessor, the mild-mannered Manmohan Singh.

PTI reports that China in its maps claims that the Finger-VIII area belongs to it, while the Indian Army has been claiming it to be part of Ladakh.

However, as the Indian side was trying to back its claim during negotiations, the Chinese army constructed a metal-top road and claimed the area to be part of Aksai Chin area, the sources said, adding many a time the Indian Army has used the same road to patrol the area and lay claim over it.

Distant neighbours buffered by Tibet and the Himalayas for millennia, China and India became next-door neighbours with contested frontiers and disputed histories in 1950, following the occupation of Tibet by Mao’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). While the rest of the world started taking note of China’s rise during the last decade of the twentieth century, India has been warily watching China’s rise ever since a territorial dispute erupted in a brief but full-scale war in 1962, followed by skirmishes in 1967 and 1987.

India’s bilateral relationship with China has always been underscored by a subtle, unseen, yet ongoing and deeply felt tension, the affects of which have left a convoluted lineage. Tensions between the two powers have come to influence everything from their military and security decision-making to their economic and diplomatic manoeuvring, with implications for wary neighbours and faraway allies alike. The relationship is complicated by layers of rivalry, mistrust, and occasional cooperation, not to mention actual geographical disputes.

While reports of incursions emerge continuously from the contentious Indo-Chinese border areas, on the diplomatic front, mutual relations have looked consistently more rosy, especially since Narendra Modi took office in India. 

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, held his first high-level interaction with the new dispensation in New Delhi meeting his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj earlier this month on June 8th, and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in key areas including trade and investment, amid hopes of an upswing in bilateral ties due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s familiarity with China.

China is India’s biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling close to $70 billion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India, seeking greater engagement between the world’s two most populous nations on trade and regional security.

India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari is on a five day state-visit to China. He was invited by Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao to pay an official visit from June 26 to 30.

India’s Army Chief General Bikram Singh will be in China on a rare visit from Wednesday July 2 to July 5 during which he will hold talks with the top brass of the Chinese military and foreign ministry officials besides addressing the Chinese military academy.

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