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Indian, Chinese patrols face-off in Tawang ahead of Corps Commander talks

Government officials underplayed the incident and said the Tawang sector is prone to such incidents, but this time such an engagement between the two sides has happened after a long time. A similar incident had taken place in 2016 as well.

Ahead of the next round of Corps Commander level talks between India and China, which are supposed to take place in eastern Ladakh, there was a minor altercation between Indian and Chinese troops in the eastern sector of the India-China boundary. Sources mentioned that patrol parties of both the countries came face-to-face in Arunachal Pradesh, which led to some jostling before they disengaged.

The incident took place last week near Yangtse in the Tawang sector. Sources in the defence establishment said the Chinese had come in “sizeable” strength, and came face-to-face with an Indian patrolling unit. However, an official said, as it happens in such cases, there was some pushing around between the troops, but it was brought under control by the local commanders.

Sources stated that “both sides undertake patrolling activities up to their line of perception” and “whenever patrols of both sides physically meet, the situation is managed according to established protocols and mechanisms agreed by both sides”. The source also said “physical engagement can last for a few hours prior to disengaging as per mutual understanding”.

Officials said that since the India-China border “has not been formally demarcated, and hence there is a difference in perception of Line of Actual Control between the countries”, peace and tranquillity “in these areas of differing perceptions has been possible by adherence to existing agreements and protocols between the two countries”.

The officials said there was “no damage” to Indian defences and infrastructure.

Further, an official said “this is routine business whenever patrols meet wherever there’s differing perceptions” of the LAC. Such areas are patrolled by both sides, but “in this instance, the patrols happened to meet”.

Government officials underplayed the incident and said the Tawang sector is prone to such incidents, but this time such an engagement between the two sides has happened after a long time. A similar incident had taken place in 2016 as well.

However, the incident comes ahead of the 13th round of Corps Commander level talks to discuss the resolution of the 17-month long standoff in eastern Ladakh. Officials said the talks are expected to be held within the next few days.

After the last round of talks on July 31, both sides had disengaged from the Gogra Post area, from Patrolling Point 17A. The breakthrough in talks after the two sides had pulled back their troops and tanks from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso in February.

A small number of Chinese troops continue to be on the Indian side of the LAC at PP15 in Hot Springs. Also, Chinese troops have been blocking Indian soldiers from accessing PP10, PP11, PP11A, PP12 and PP13 in Depsang Plains, which is close to India’s strategically significant Dault Beg Oldie base near Karakoram Pass in the north. Some “so called civilians” from China have also pitched tents on the Indian side of the LAC in Demchok area.

The incident in Tawang sector comes nearly a month after around 100 Chinese troops had crossed the LAC in the Barahoti sector in Uttarakhand in the last week of August. The Barahoti sector, too, has witnessed minor transgressions multiple times in the past, and the two countries have differing perceptions of the LAC here.

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