Unlike with Pakistan, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh bluntly said "it cannot be business as usual" soon after two army jawans were killed — one of them beheaded — in a cross-border raid, timidity and extreme caution marks India's response vis-a-vis China.
A senior official in Ladakh —the latest flashpoint where the China's People’s Liberation Army troops have intruded and set up a tented post for more than a week now — said they were often forced to call off developmental works such as building of irrigation canals and roads because “we receive instructions from New Delhi to stop work because China is objecting”.
Just last year, all works had to be halted in Ladakh's Demchok sector, district officials said.
“We were told that any construction first requires the approval of the ministry of defence,” an official from the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council told Hindustan Times.
An official in the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s office also confirmed that on many occasions they were forced to put on hold works being carried out well within the Indian side of the line of actual control (LAC) on the orders of the ministry of defence or the ministry of external affairs. The officer didn’t wish to be identified.
Demchok falls along the LAC -– the effective border between India and China. Irrigation work was stopped there even though across the LAC, the Chinese were rushing to strengthen military infrastructure. “China stopped construction work on our side,” Leh’s chief executive councillor Rigzin Spalbar told HT.
Chinese army personnel, he said, often cross over to the Indian side, carrying banners that say ‘stop the construction, this land belongs to us’. “The Chinese have no business to interfere in our work and sometimes we have to call in the ITBP or the army to help complete the construction,’’ Spalbar said.
In October, New Delhi had underplayed another PLA intrusion. The Chinese walked into Ladakh’s Chumar sector and questioned Indian armymen repairing a road. They snapped army’s communication lines and painted a few boulders red before retreating.
In the latest incursion in Ladakh’s Daulat Beg Oldi, India continues to play down the intrusion, insisting it is looking for a peaceful solution.