At the time when the annual India-China trade has commenced, work on laying some electricity lines by India close to the border has reportedly raised the hackles of the Chinese army.
The lines are being laid to an Indian forward post near Shipki village in China-controlled Tibet, which is the main centre for the cross-border trade. Sources have told HT that, a week ago, a Chinese patrol close to the Lukma post manned by Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) specifically objected to poles being erected to provide electricity to one of the border posts. They asked the Indian troops to shift the poles 20-25 metres inside India. Even as it is learnt that the military and paramilitary are working to sort out the issue at their level, assistant commandant of the ITBP, Vijaypal Singh Negi, said he could not “comment anything right now”.
State director general of police Sanjay Kumar said, “There are some unconfirmed reports of objections to electricity lines by a Chinese patrol. We are trying to establish contact with military and paramilitary forces.” The matter has also been brought to the notice of high-ups in the central government, sources have told HT.
When contacted, the chairman-cum-managing director of Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board Limited, Pratap Negi, expressed ignorance: “I am not seized of the matter. It may be that the military and paramilitary were laying some extension lines.”
Himachal Pradesh shares a 260km border with China — 140km along Kinnaur, and 80km along the Lahaul and Spiti district.
Three battalions of ITBP guard the border and have 20 posts. Unlike in Ladakh, where border intrusions are frequent, as the two countries differ over the border definition, HP’s region along China has been largely free of incidents.
In an isolated instance of its kind, though, Chinese helicopters had violated Indian air space on March 16, 2012, coming in seven kilometers inside Kaurik, the last point on the strategic Hindustan-Tibet Road.
This had been confirmed by the then defence minister AK Antony in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, and had raised serious concerns. The then HP chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal of the BJP that is now in power at the Centre, had stressed the need to develop infrastructure along the border. There are reports that the Chinese army is gradually building up infrastructure along this border, which did not witness any intrusion even at the time of Chinese aggression in 1962.