- The Indian side has assessed that at least half of the 23 “disputed & sensitive areas” on LAC are “likely to witness troop face-offs and transgressions by China’s PLA.
- Indian troops are conducting “aggressive patrolling’’ in all the three sectors of the LAC to strengthen claims to disputed territories.
Indian security forces are bracing for a “hot” summer in the Himalayas along the Line of Actual Control with China this year. But unlike the Line of Control with Pakistan, where cross-border firing duels is the norm, it will be a battle of nerves in the shape of troop face-offs and transgressions without actual shots being fired on the China front.
The assessment by the Indian defence establishment is that at least half of the 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” identified on the 4,057-km LAC, stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, are “likely to witness renewed muscle-flexing” by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with winter ebbing away now.
The two countries continue to maintain high operational alertness on their borders, with additional units deployed in forward areas, despite troop disengagement from the 73-day face-off at Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction last year.
With Chinese troops having now permanently occupied the Bhutanese territory of north Doklam by constructing bunkers, hutments, roads and helipads to sustain their troops in the area, the number of PLA “transgressions” across the LAC into what India perceives to be its territory has also shown a significant jump. If 273 transgressions (military euphemism for incursions) were recorded in 2016, the number touched 426 last year.
“We are keeping a close watch on the Chinese activity. We are also conducting regular and special long-range patrols (LRPs) to the 18 mountain passes in the region to physically dominate the LAC,” said a senior officer of 2 Infantry Mountain Division, responsible for “maintaining the sanctity” of the 386-km stretch of the LAC in the rugged terrain of Dibang, Dau-Delai and Lohit Valleys in Arunachal Pradesh.
Indian troops, of course, also conduct “aggressive patrolling’’ in all the three sectors of the LAC — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) – to strengthen claims to disputed territories. “In fact, we patrol much more than the PLA,” said an officer.
The rival troops often leave behind “tell-tale signs” in the shape of cigarette packets and cans or painted rocks to declare it their territory. “If the rival troops come face-to-face, there are laid down steps like banner drills to defuse the situation. Issues on the LAC are resolved through established mechanisms like border personnel meetings, flag meetings and hotline calls,” said another officer.
But the confrontations can get quite prolonged like they did during the Depsang and Chumar face-offs in eastern Ladakh in 2013-2014. The disputed areas in Ladakh range from Trig Heights, Demchok and Dumchele to Chumar, Spanggur Gap and Pangong Tso.
In Arunachal, the flashpoints are Namkha Chu, Sumdorong Chu, Asaphila, Dichu, Yangtse and Dibang Valley. In the Dibang Valley, the hotspots are the so-called “Fish Tail-I and II” areas, which take their name from the shape the LAC takes in the region. In the middle sector, in turn, the disputed areas include Barahoti, Kaurik and Shipki La.
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