Searching questions were raised within the China Study Group (CSG) on Indian surveillance capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the exact date of Chinese incursion in Depsang Plains before they were detected on April 16.
An apex body comprising of defence, home, foreign secretaries, intelligence chiefs, director general military operations and vice-chief of army staff, CSG, met at least four times during the incursion crisis.
Top government sources said there was a view within the CSG that the Chinese PLA transgressed into the Indian notional LAC and pitched up tents as early as April 10.
However, senior army officials, replying to written queries from HT, deny this.
“The area under Depsang is under regular surveillance through multiple means. The transgression was detected on April 16 by various measures in place to maintain surveillance along the LAC,” said an army official.
While the army claims that the PLA could have pitched elaborate tent structures within four hours, situation reports from the area reveal that the ITBP area patrol from Burtse camp sighted Chinese troopers some 1.2km from their forward post at 11.30am on April 15.
The Indian patrol started following their transgressing Chinese counterpart as per the 2005 bilateral protocol throughout the day.
The pitched tents were detected a day later by the Indian Army surveillance helicopters and confirmed by unmanned aerial vehicles, leading to a face-off near Raki nullah at a distance of 300 metres. The first meeting of the CSG took place on April 17.
Denying any quid pro quo with the Chinese in defusing the face-off on May 5, the government says heavy diplomacy worked for India.
But it is quite evident that the Chinese PLA withdrew from the Depsang Plains after the Indian Army removed a forward fortification in Chumar area, some 500km from the incursion site.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid has gone public saying a “tin shed” was dismantled due to Chinese objections that it was on their side of the LAC, the Army told the CSG that a “patrol rest point” was dismantled.
The dismantling of the fortification with a commanding view of the area was raised by the Chinese PLA in the first border patrol meeting itself on the issue on April 18 and discussed by the CSG a day later.
The Chinese had earlier also protested against detention of its so-called two revenue officials by Indian Army in Chumar in June 2012.
For the record, senior army officials said: “Status quo ante of April 15 has been restored along LAC by both sides.”
The withdrawal of the Chinese PLA from the face-off area was critical to New Delhi as the tents were so strategically placed in the bottle-neck area of Depsang bulge that prevented the Indian troopers to patrol some 750 square km of area.