NEW DELHI: India and China may have restored “status quo ante” after a 21-day military stand-off at the Depsang Bulge area in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector of Ladakh but regular face-offs between the rival troops all along the undelineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) continue as before.
In the latest such incident that has come to light, People’s Liberation Army soldiers intercepted an Indian Army patrol and prevented it from going up to what India perceives to be its territory in the Finger-VIII or Sri Jap area, situated north of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, on May 17.
This was just about 12 days after the resolution of the military stand-off in Depsang area, where Chinese troops had intruded 19km deep inside Indian territory and pitched tents on April 15, and just a couple of days before Chinese premier Li Keqiang came visiting India.
Army sources on Sunday said there was “nothing unusual” about the May 17 face-off. “Six to seven such incidents take place in that area every month, with both sides patrolling up to what they perceive to be their territory along the LAC … there was no activity out of the established pattern witnessed there,” said a source.
There were reports the PLA had constructed a metal-top road 5km deep into Indian territory across the LAC in the area, claiming that it was part of the Aksai Chin region held by them. But Army sources here said that China had constructed no new roads in the sub-sector since 2008, and that the Sri Jap area “fell under the Chinese side of the LAC”.
The fact, however, remains that PLA has stepped up its “military assertiveness” to stake claim to disputed areas after India took to building border infrastructure over the last four to five years, in a belated response to China’s massive infrastructure build-up along the LAC for over the last two decades.
India has recorded well over 600 “transgressions” â€” the government’s euphemism for cross-border intrusions â€” by the PLA all along the 4,057km LAC over the last three years. Apart from the sheer number of such incidents, what has further troubled the Indian establishment is the “aggressive intent” being shown by PLA soldiers in all the three sectors â€” western (Ladakh), middle ( Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern ( Sikkim, Arunachal).
The DBO and Nyoma sectors as well as Trig Heights and Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, in particular, have witnessed stepped-up PLA activity. The Depsang stand-off, where rival troops pitched tents across each other, was apparently triggered by India’s construction of an observation post at Chumar near the Ladakh- Himachal Pradesh border to the south.
After the PLA troops pitched tents in the Depsang area on April 15, Indian troops had swiftly constructed bunkers with tin roofs at Chumar as a counter-measure to pressurise China. Ultimately, India dismantled the bunkers after the PLA troops agreed to leave the Depsang area on May 5 to restore “status quo ante”.