For 26 yrs, India overlooks squatter China
The Chinese army occupied a strategically important slice of Indian territory in Arunachal in 1986 and has remained entrenched in the area since then as successive govts in Delhi have denied the army permission to evict the intruders for what are being quoted as 'pragmatic' reasons. Rahul Karmakar reports. Sneaky neighbourUpdated: Feb 09, 2012 02:05 IST
The Chinese army occupied a strategically important slice of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh in 1986 and has remained entrenched in the area since then as successive governments in Delhi have denied the army permission to evict the intruders for what are being quoted as “pragmatic” reasons.
In late 1986, the Chinese army crossed the McMahon Line — the de facto boundary between India and China — and occupied a strategically critical 28 sq km area in the Wangdung region of Sumdorong Chu Valley, 68 km northeast of Tawang town, a senior army officer told HT on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The Indian Army used to vacate the area during the harsh winter and return every summer.
This occupied territory, though small, is strategically important as it can, in the event of hostilities, provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a launch pad for a thrust into Tawang and the Brahmaputra valley beyond. Beijing claims Tawang is a part of China.
“We could have easily ejected the Chinese soldiers, but were restrained by the government from doing so,” the officer said, adding: “This stance is demoralising the army.”
A senior official at army headquarters in Delhi confirmed that the PLA is, indeed, in illegal occupation of Indian territory but added that it didn’t matter as “the Indian Army holds the heights around the area”.
He added: “We’re being pragmatic as we don't want to escalate tensions.”
In an operation that bears startling similarities with Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure 12 years later, the PLA occupied the post and the surrounding area during winter of 1986, when it was unoccupied.
The PLA refused to leave when Special Services Bureau personnel, who manned the post, returned the following summer.
The PLA has, meanwhile, fortified the area and even built a helipad to fly in supplies.
Arunachal West MP Takam Sanjoy recently said the Chinese had penetrated deeper into Indian territory in the Tawang sector, but HT could not independently confirm this.
“We had met the Prime Minister and defence minister to apprise them of the fresh incursions a few weeks ago,” he said.
First Published: Feb 09, 2012 01:23 IST