The government and the army have denied any unusual Chinese incursion in Arunachal Pradesh. A senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office told the Hindustan Times that the issue has been blown out of proportion because of some internal politics in the state.
“The charge made by Kiren Rijiju, (Bharatiya Janata Party MP) that the Chinese have come in 20 km is simply not true”, he said, requesting anonymity because of the ongoing Parliament session.
A senior army officer, who cannot be named because of rules, explained that though the entire Sino-Indian border is disputed and defined by a Line of Actual Control (LAC), there are some five or six places where even the location of the LAC is disputed.
Among the more prominent sites of dispute is the trijunction formed by the Sikkim-Tibet-West Bengal boundary, Sumdorong Chu and the nearby site where the current alleged intrusion has occurred — a stretch of territory between the Yumen Chu and the Niamjiang Chu near Asaphi La.
“Both sides send patrols to these areas,” said the senior PMO official. “Actually Chinese patrolling is virtually non-existent in the western and central sectors, it is only in the disputed parts in the eastern sector that patrolling takes place,” he added.
There is a peculiar choreography that both sides follow in such areas. Patrols visit the area, camp there and leave deliberate signs of their presence — a cap, belt, empty cigarette packets, food wrappers and so on.
These have been designated as “tell-tale signs” by the Indian army and are assiduously collected. On the rare occasion that the two patrols may meet, they leave their arms behind and approach their counterparts and in friendly and polite manner and tell them that they are in Indian/Chinese territory.
Unlike the 740-km Line of Control that forms the border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, the 4,000 km plus LAC has not been jointly surveyed.
The Chinese say it “approximates the illegal McMahon Line,” a boundary created by the 1914 Simla Convention, which the Chinese representative initialed, but did not sign. The Indian side says not only is the McMahon Line the border, it also interprets the line to follow the highest crest of the Himalayas.
But since the Himalayas don’t form a neat watershed in this area because they are cut by a number of north-south rivers like the Niamjiang Chu, the dispute over where the boundary lies gets complicated further.
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