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The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) expected to be signed between India and China on Wednesday could prevent incursions like the one witnessed in April at Depsang valley in Ladakh, as the two governments would have to rein in their border patrols, leading Chinese analysts told Hindustan Times.
The agreement is expected to be signed during the three-day China visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will reach Beijing on Tuesday evening.
“Prime Minister Singh’s visit is a very important opportunity to sign the agreement. A lot of preparatory work has already been done on it. Serious discussions have been held with Indian officials,” said Zhao Gancheng, director, Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
Zhao said the BDCA would strengthen approaches to tackle incidents like the one in Depsang, where India had accused China of intrusion after its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers pitched tents in Indian territory.
“The agreement could also create conditions for, and possibly reduce, military and weapons deployment in areas where both countries have concerns,” he said.
“If both leaders ink the BDCA, which will have a binding force, both sides would have to discipline their patrolling forces along the borders, especially avoiding face-to-face collisions and standoffs,” said Hu Shisheng, director, South and South-East Asian and Oceania Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
“Besides, we already have the border affairs coordination and consultation mechanism. This mechanism plus the BDCA would reduce incidents like the one in April by a big margin.”
The two sides have exchanged their respective Line of Actual Control (LAC) maps only in the mid-section of the disputed border, and few standoffs occur in this section.
“But regarding the eastern and western sections, there are many overlapping claims about their respective LACs. Standoffs like the one in April-May cannot be avoided until both sides have a clear understanding and even mutually recognise the LACs,” Hu said.
Zhao suggested that the level of communication be upgraded to add to the cushion against future cases of incursion.
“Higher ranking military officers could be designated to handle such issues so that they can respond quickly. Communication should be direct between these officers – say, someone from the Chengdu military zone in China and someone from the Eastern Command in India,” he said.
However, both Zhao and Hu agreed that the BDCA was only a step towards the final settlement of the border issue and that neither country was ready for it yet.
“The final settlement will require big concessions from both countries. Neither side will find it easy. People (on both sides) are not ready for it. That is the problem,” Zhao said.