Barely 24 hours after President Xi Jinping flew back home, Chinese soldiers -- albeit in fewer numbers -- are back in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the Indian Army in Chumar in eastern Ladakh.
After more than 100 of their men moved back a kilometre from point 30R on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control, apparently on the instructions of Xi, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces sat in their vehicles for a day before around 70 returned to the site at 11.30 am on Saturday, with seven tents, four trucks and three jeeps. Some 500 PLA soldiers are understood to be providing support from behind the LAC, and the Indian army has also dug in, setting up tents in the brutal minus three degree centigrade weather and prepared for the long haul.
In fact, South Block believes that even though the Chinese troops may thin down in Chumar, tensions will continue to simmer as the PLA seems determined to take control of the hillocks on Indian side and establish the position of the disputed LAC as close to their perception as possible.
So the government is considering moving the Assam Rifles from the eastern borders and adding its 40 battalions -- roughly 40,000 troops --to the defence of the LAC. Currently there are about 105,000 soldiers guarding the LAC, of whom 15,000 are in the eastern Ladakh sector. No final decision has been taken yet, but it is learnt that home minister Rajnath Singh has no objection to the move.While about 1,000 Indian troops have been sent to Chumar alone, diplomatic wheels have also been set in motion.
"Diplomatically, the mechanism for consultation and coordination for India-China boundary affairs is being activated to ensure PLA withdrawal,” said a senior South Block official.
In addition to the incursion on point 30R (so named because it is 30 metres high), it has now emerged that some 500 PLA troops had also moved surreptitiously to point 4991, a hillock three to four km into Indian territory, as part of a plan to build a rough road. By Saturday though, their numbers had come down to 35, and all troops at another point, 5109, had gone.
Satellite imagery of the area has revealed that the PLA had planned this intrusion for quite some time, dodging the Indians at 30R and trying to build an axis linking Chepzi (China) and Mane on the Indian side. This hill track would have bisected the Indian axis linking the Indian army base at Chumar with troops guarding the 30 R point.
It is understood that Modi raised the Chumar intrusions no fewer than three times with Xi. In fact, when Xi said that there should be peace and tranquillity on the borders, Modi made it a point to say that there could be no peace and tranquillity on the borders until the situation prevailing before the intrusions started on September 10 was enforced.
Modi and defence minister Arun Jaitley are being regularly briefed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, army chief Gen Dalbir Suhag and defence secretary RK Mathur on the situation.
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