A Chinese helicopter on Wednesday brazenly flew over an Indian military base in Ladakh’s Chumar area, worsening the border impasse.
This comes a day after the failed flag meeting in which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers hinted to their Indian counterparts that the current face-off at Ladakh’s Depsang Plains could be resolved if road construction and military activity in Chumar was stopped. Chumar, close to the Himachal Pradesh border, is a day's mountainous drive from Depsang.
It is evident from the two flag meetings that PLA is totally opposed to India beefing up its defences along the Line of Actual Control.
India has requested for a third flag meeting, the date of which would be communicated by Beijing earliest by Thursday.
Top government sources said that face-off between Indian and Chinese troops entered the 10th day with both sides pitching tents only in the night to take shelter from the elements.
On Wednesday morning, a PLA helicopter conducted reconnaissance between the old and new patrol bases in the Chumar sector as well as the track junction area between Chushul and Demchok. Incidentally, it is at Demchok that the Chinese have built a huge observation post to monitor the Indian Army's activities.
In a bid to end the deadlock diplomatically and get Chinese premier Li Keqiang to visit India, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid will make a preparatory visit to Beijing next month. However, the situation is “in flux, and no dates have been decided yet”, a source told HT.
Sources said in the first flag meeting on April 18, the PLA said they had established a new post, way inside perceived Indian territory in Depsang plain as they could not monitor increased Indian military activity in the Daulet Beg Oldi sector. This was in spite of the fact that the Indian Army had constructed no new local post. It had just added to its defensive capability in its battalion headquarters. The PLA also raked up the issue of Indian Army bunkers at Fukche, beyond Chushul, only to be told that the work had already been halted.
In the flag meeting on Tuesday, the PLA representative raised the issue about construction in Chumar and, in Indian assessment, indicated that a stop to activity in this contested area would end the face-off. Chumar has been always disputed by the PLA and was a site of a face-off at Old Patrol Base in 2008 and another last year.
China had opposed road construction by Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council in Chumar as a result of which the project is going at a snail's pace.