Monday, September 27, 2010

Aggressive Chinese troops turn up the heat on India's border

The Indian establishment is worried about a startling increase in the number of stand-offs between Indian and Chinese border patrols and more aggressive posturing by Chinese soldiers along the border.

The political leadership has been briefed about this qualitative change in the assertiveness of Chinese troops along the border, sources said.

The latest stand-off between the two sides along the disputed Line of Actual Control was about three weeks ago, when Chinese soldiers brought a bulldozer into a disputed area in the Ladakh region to construct a road. Even after the Indian side objected to it and asked the Chinese to take it back, the PLA unduly delayed the withdrawal of the machine and took it away only about four days later. The delay of the Chinese was unusual, said a senior official, but it fell into the trend they have noticed this summer of greater assertiveness by People's Liberation Army soldiers.

In fact, the 2010 summer has already recorded an almost 100% increase in the number of stand-offs between the patrols of the two sides. Sources said these peaceful stand-offs were reported from Depsang, Demchok and Pangong Tso areas of Ladakh region in recent weeks.

Sources said they had recorded at least six stand-offs between the two sides this summer. With at least two more months for winter to set in, putting an end to such long range patrols, 2010 may wind up with a record high in the number of such encounters in recent memory. Compared to it, the disputed areas of Ladakh only recorded about three stand-offs a year between the two sides every summer in recent years.

Sources said these stand-offs had been between patrols of the Army and the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) with PLA soldiers. The increasing number of stand-offs apart, the changing posture of the PLA during the stand-offs is equally worrying.

Sources said the security establishment is also reporting a significant step up in the assertiveness of Chinese military patrols whenever they encounter Indian patrols in the disputed areas of Ladakh region. For one, the Chinese soldiers are no more slinging their rifles on their shoulders but are holding it in their hands in a more readiness posture.

In the past, whenever the patrols came face to face, the two sides withdrew simultaneously, which is the accepted norm. It is no more the case, according to sources who say they are worried about the developments. Now, the Chinese military personnel wait for the Indian patrol to withdraw fully from the area, he said. The traditionally accepted guidelines for such instances are a simultaneous withdrawal by both sides.

There are no significant reports of such stand-offs coming in from the northeastern border, sources said.