China-India standoff

Masud Ahmad Khan

The Sino-Indian border is divided; the western sector is known as Aksai Chin and the Eastern sector comprises of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. According to India’s Ministry of Defence, the border is 4065 kilometers and to a former Indian ambassador to China, the border is 3488 kilometers. However, according to Chinese officials the border is 2000 kilometers–1600 kilometers less than what is claimed by India.

In the year 2020, an unusual development was observed in Eastern Ladakh, IIOJK. A 255 kilometers long all-weather road was constructed from Darbuk-Shyok to Daulat Beg Oldie. The construction of road alarmed the Chinese as it presented a clear threat to Aksai Chin and the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway. On May 5, 2020, in a blitzkrieg move, the PLA landed its troops in Galwan Valley and the Demchok area. The Chinese demanded for all the infrastructure to be removed and the road to Daulat Beg Oldie to be dismantled. On June 15, a bloody clash took place in Galwan valley when 22 Indian soldiers were killed as a result of a provocative attack launched by them.

According to The Hindu, China captured 1000 square kilometers of area in Galwan Valley, Depsang plains, Hot springs, Chushal and Pangong Tso. Indian army positions in Eastern Ladakh from Daulat Beg Oldie to Demchok are now being dominated by the PLA. China did not recognise the Johnson Line in Ladakh but agrees to the Macartney-Macdonald Line which puts Aksai Chin in the Chinese territory. According to Indian media, PLA had allegedly entered into Indian territory by 5 kilometers through the Tunjun la Pass. Barahoti lies on the border with China in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand North of Nanda Devi National Park. Barahoti is an 80 kilometers long pasture located 140 kilometers from Dehradun capital of Uttarakhand. It was the first location claimed by China since 1950 as a part of Tibet.

The Chinese claim area is South of Tunjun la Pass where Barahoti (Wuje) is located. The Indian army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are responsible for the defence of the region. In the past, there had been a standoff on this area several times. In September 2018, the PLA was accused by Indian officials of entering 4 kilometers inside Barahoti. On August 30, 2021, PLA allegedly entered Barahoti by 5 kilometers, accompanied by 55 horses, and stayed in the area for over three hours. The locals of Barahoti spotted the PLA and informed the security forces.

In view of the importance of the region, the Chamba tunnel was constructed in Uttarakhand for faster mobility, shifting of logistics and troops. It is 440 meters long and will be functional by this month. This tunnel will facilitate all-weather connectivity to Chardkham, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Badrinath. These developments in the sector are against the interest of China as it claims Barahoti as its integral part. Since the PLA never allowed developments that threatened its interests in Eastern Ladakh, it landed its forces on the sites where the Indians were developing infrastructure. They demolished the newly constructed bridge and returned. The message is clear that the Chinese will never accept any illegal construction in the disputed areas.

Similarly, India is also constructing a series of tunnels to link IIOJK with Ladakh. The first tunnel is 6.5 kilometers long and has already been completed. The last tunnel is 14 kilometers long and passes through the Zojila pass which will connect Sonamarg with Ladakh. This tunnel will provide easy access to supplies and allow for operational flexibility to the Indian army. The talks between India and China, at military and diplomatic levels, have failed to make a significant headway and the thirteenth round of talks will be held in this month at corps commanders level to discuss disengagement.

According to Global Times the situation and hype was created by India after the QUAD summit. A situation occurred on August 30, 2020, that is now being reported in September. The Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson said that “India has been illegally crossing the line to erode Chinese territory which is the source of tension on the China-India border”. The Chinese President Xi has made it clear that China is committed to peace but will not give up even one inch of its territory.

(Courtesy Nation, Pakistan)