China built village in area held by PLA for decades, say officials
A new Chinese village, which has emerged as a symbol of Beijing’s assertiveness in disputed border areas with India in the eastern sector, has been built in an area held by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for more than six decades, people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
The Indian Army has been aware of the village’s existence in a disputed border area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh for more than a year, but the village was thrust into the limelight again after being cited in a US defence department report last week.
It is located along the disputed border in upper Subansiri district.
“It has been built by China in an area that was occupied by the PLA after overrunning an Assam Rifles post in 1959 in an operation known as Longju incident along the frontier in Arunachal Pradesh,” said one of the officials cited above.
The incident took place a few months after the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet, crossed into India in March 1959 and was later granted political asylum by New Delhi.
“It was at Longju in the Subansiri frontier division that the first armed clash took place between the PLA (2nd Company of 1st Regiment of Shannan Military Sub Command) and personnel of 9 Assam Rifles occupying the Indian post at Longju on August 25, 1959, which resulted in two Indian casualties,” according to a journal published by think tank United Service Institution of India in 2014.
It added that Assam Rifles did not reoccupy Longju and instead set up a post at Maja, 10 km south of Longju, on August 29, 1959. The article in the journal was headlined ‘1962 War - The Unknown Battles: Operations in Subansiri and Siang Frontier Division.’
Highlighting Chinese attempts to continue pressing its claims at the LAC, the US defence department report pointed to a large 100-home civilian village China has constructed “inside disputed territory” between Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The Chinese have, for years, maintained an army post in the region and the various constructions undertaken by the Chinese have not happened in a short time,” said a second official.
It is true that this area (where the village has come up) has been under the control of the PLA since 1959, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).
“However, Chinese claims here have not been accepted by India. Constructing villages and settling civilians in disputed areas is one way by which China could reinforce and strengthen its claims,” Hooda warned.
Some experts, including General Hooda, also view the setting up of the Chinese village in the context a 2005 agreement between India and China on political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China boundary question.
Article VII of that pact says, “In reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas.”
Last month, Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General Manoj Pande flagged concerns about the “dual-use” of villages being set up by China in forward areas, and said the army was factoring in the development in its operational planning.
The PLA has intensified patrolling in sensitive areas across the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh after a lingering standoff with India began last year in the Ladakh sector. It has ramped up area domination patrols for surveillance and orientation of newly inducted troops with a noticeable increase in visits by senior PLA officers to forward areas to supervise the military activities in the eastern sector, as previously reported by HT.
The sectors across which the Indian Army has detected increased PLA activities include Lungro La, Zimithang and Bum La - areas of high historical significance in the context of Chinese aggression in the eastern sector - and countermeasures have been taken to boost India’s readiness to handle any contingency,
India and China have hardened their stance on the LAC in Ladakh, and also in the eastern sector, going by increased military activities on both sides of the boundary, infrastructure development, surveillance and combat manoeuvres by their armies amid the ongoing border standoff.