“Worst Border Tensions Since Kargil”: What are 5,000 Chinese Troops Upto Along the LAC?


“Worst Border Tensions Since Kargil”: What are 5,000 Chinese Troops Upto Along the LAC?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

As the world comes to terms with the coronavirus pandemic and life after lockdown, tensions have mounted between India and China in the Ladakh region. Reports have stated that the Chinese military is fast increasing its troop presence around Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Satellite images have confirmed the troop buildup by the Chinese, with durable tents visible along with heavy trucks.

Defence writer Ajai Shukla has claimed that this is not just another border clash, but the situation is much worse, as the Chinese are digging defences to stay and there’s been no response from the Indian army so far. “For the first time since the Kargil intrusions of 1999, Indian territory is in the hands of foreign soldiers,” he wrote.

Shukla pointed out through a satellite image how three Indian posts were now in the hands of the Chinese authority.

India is set to be witnessing its worst border tensions since the Kargil battle in 1999, with at least 5,000 Chinese troops along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. ANI reported that Chinese troops have moved in “nearly 10-15 km from the Indian post KM 120” in the Galwan Valley, and have pitched tents and stationed themselves close to the post. Beyond KM 120 lies the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg-Oldie road built last year which has been a thorn in China’s flesh. The inauguration of the road was heavily criticised by the Chinese media.

“China’s actions are hard to decipher, especially in the absence of any authoritative statements from Beijing. The simplest explanation perhaps is that China is responding to India’s efforts to bolster border-area infrastructure in Ladakh after the completion of the DSDBO road. After India’s move into Doklam in 2017, China is perhaps especially sensitive to Indian activity along the disputed border,” said Taylor Fravel, Professor of International Relations at MIT.

India has demanded that China revert to status quo along the LAC in Ladakh while the Chinese have sought a stoppage of construction activities by India near the “borders”. Talks have been held at the local level to defuse tensions, but no tangible outcome has been arrived at yet.

In response, the Indian Army has increased its presence in Uttarakhand by inducting additional troops and enhanced round-the-clock surveillance of the LAC. Fresh induction of troops, sources said, has taken place in Ladakh to strengthen Indian positions and create reserves. An official said reinforcements have already been provided to certain posts in Ladakh which are considered “critical” in case of sudden Chinese moves in the area.

Amid rising tensions at the border, as well as the piling coronavirus cases in India, China said it would evacuate its citizens “who have difficulties” and want to return home. A notice by the Chinese embassy in India said students, tourists and businessmen who have been stranded in India will be allowed to fly back to China on special flights but at their own expense. The notice has come after India became one of the top 10 countries with the maximum number of cases.

With India reeling from rising coronavirus cases, the last thing we need is another flashpoint with China. The posturing from both sides can wait for a later time, after we can all resolve the bigger crisis at hand.