- As tensions remain high between Indian and Chinese soldiers, the number of recorded Chinese transgressions across the disputed India-China border surged by 75 per cent in Ladakh in 2019.
- The Chinese forays into Indian territory in the first four months of the current year have also witnessed an increase compared to the same period last year.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their informal Summits in Wuhan (2018) and in Chennai (2019) had reaffirmed that both sides will continue to make efforts to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.
- This is essential for the overall development of the bilateral relations.
- The two sides have established mechanisms to resolve such situations as and when they arise including Border Personnel Meeting, Flag Meetings, and Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs as well as diplomatic channels.
- Pangong lake: Pangong lake or Pangong Tso, a 135-km long lake, located in the Himalayas at the height of approximately 4,350 m, stretches out from India to China.
- The region has been a bone of contention between India and China for long.
- In the 1990s, when the Indian side laid claims over the area, the Chinese army built a metal-top road contending that it was part of the Aksai Chin, which is another disputed border area between the two. The Aksai Chin area falls under Chinese control and is governed as part of Hotan County.
- There has been constant strife between the two countries over the region as both assert territorial possession.
- Amidst strained ties over the ongoing Doklam standoff, the Chinese troops had declined to participate in the ceremonial border meetings on the occasion of India’s Independence Day this year.
- A Chinese transgression across the border is recorded once the Indian border guarding forces in an area – either the Army or the ITBP – are “reasonably certain” that the Chinese soldiers had crossed over to the Indian side of the LAC.
- AS per officials Chinese transgression – in air, land or the waters of Pangong Tso lake – can be recorded.
- How it is observed: It is visually observed by border posts, through use of surveillance equipment, in face-offs by patrols, indicated reliably by locals, or based on evidence left by the Chinese in the form of wrappers, biscuit packets etc to show their presence in an unmanned area.
Different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides:
- The border is not fully demarcated and the LAC is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries.
- Except for the middle sector, even the mutual exchange of maps about their respective perceptions has not taken place between India and China.
- Essentially, what Indians believe to be ‘their side’ is not the same as what the Chinese believe to be ‘their side’ – this is different from the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan where everything was agreed upon by the two armies following the 1971 War.
Various sectors on the India-China border: India-China border is divided into three sectors
- The LAC in the western sector falls in the union territory of Ladakh and is 1597 km long,
- The middle sector of 545 km length falls in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and 1346 km long eastern sector falls in the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The middle sector is the least disputed sector, while the western sector witnesses the highest transgressions between the two sides.
Do the higher number of Chinese transgressions matter?
- A higher number indicates that the Chinese soldiers are coming to the Indian side more often, and their movements are being observed and recorded by the Indian soldiers.
- This can be seen as an indicator of increased Chinese assertiveness, but as long as there are no major incidents, it means that the established border mechanisms between the two sides are working.
- So far, there has been no major standoff between the two sides after the 73-day Doklam standoff on Sikkim-Bhutan border in 2017.
- The two leaders had “issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs”.
- Also “directed their militaries to earnestly implement various confidence building measures agreed upon between the two sides, including the principle of mutual and equal security, and strengthen existing institutional arrangements and information sharing mechanisms to prevent incidents in border regions”.
- Has the Wuhan spirit vanished?
- Difficult to conclude : Tensions between India and China have shot up suddenly in 2020, even as both countries grapple with containing the spread of COVID-19.
- Informal summits have their use as trust-building exercises: It has to be acknowledged, however, that since the Wuhan Summit, little has changed as far as India-China relations are concerned. Doklam and the disputed border between the two countries remains an issue of concern.
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