Millennium Post

Chinese checkers

Chinese troops intruding deep inside Indian territory is nothing new. Very recently on 13 June, the Red Army had intruded deep inside Uttarakhand and there were reports that Chinese troops had infiltrated into Barahoti in Chamoli district. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has a post in Rim Khim (Barahoti). There had also been reports of Chinese troops scribbling ‘China’ on the rocks near Mana pass in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, at the height of 13,500 feet. When vice-president Hamid Ansari visited China to mark 60 years of the Panchsheel agreement, tension erupted between the two countries over map controversy in which China had shown Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh in its territory and India raised objections over it. This displays the massive trust deficit that exists between the two countries.

The Chinese had intruded into Barahoti in 1954 too but failed to evoke strong reactions from the Indian point of view. It was made to look simple and uneventful with just a note being sent to the Chinese embassy to register the Indian protest. On 17 July, 1954, China laid claim to Barahoti (naming it Wu-Je) in north-east hills of the then Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand) and protested against the Indian troops in the area. This was the first time when China laid claims to any part of the Indian territory. Although Barahoti has been under Chinese threat, it remains less-discussed and highlighted whereas dormant, whereas Arunachal Pradesh makes news consistently. ‘China is not really interested in Barahoti but Beijing uses it as a pressure point on New Delhi to see reason over the border dispute, a dispute that hinges purely on Aksai Chin,’ said Prof A R Nautiyal, Dean, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna University (Garhwal). Former Uttarakhand CM Vijay Bahuguna had pointed out in a meeting of the chief ministers on internal security held in New Delhi that Chinese troops had intruded into Uttarakhand 37 times between 2007 and 2012. The 554 km-long Middle Sector along the Sino-India border is the smallest of the three sectors (West and East) and least contentious. Under the 1954 agreement on trade and intercourse, both sides had agreed to six border passes along the sector which implicitly indicated an agreed border here. Although, when talks for the Middle Sector began in 1998, China made claims in four areas of Lapthal, Sangcha, Pulam Sumda and Kavriki, in addition to the recorded areas of dispute in Barahoti. The Chinese have also asserted that Barahoti belongs to Tibet, since Tibet had been exercising jurisdiction over it. They also maintain that Barahoti was gradually invaded and occupied by the British, and hence, must be returned to China. Earlier, this boundary was acknowledged by the Tibetan and British governments under the 1890 and 1919 Treaties.

On 27 August, 1954, India informed China that its protests were entirely unjustified and that the Barahoti plain was clearly within India. The boundary in the Middle Sector runs along the watershed from Ladakh to Nepal. It adjoins the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. ‘Indian government’s fearful approach towards these areas, due to the Chinese phobia, causes frustration among the locals. It takes hours to go to the border from the last base of Indian Army and there is hardly any road. There is a need to develop the infrastructure and also an aggressive counter strategy against the Chinese threat perception,’ Maroof Raza, defence expert told Millennium Post explaining the issue.

When asked how to deal with the problem, he said, ‘There is a need for political will to deal with China. Our leaders have to be more realistic while dealing with China. After 1962 war, there were two incidents when the Indian Army forced the Chinese to go back to their bunkers. The first was in Nathu La Pass in October 1967 and the other was in 1986-87 when the Indian Army refused to stand down against Chinese aggression.’

‘Why the Indian troops could not retaliate like the Japanese coast guards did in September 2010 when they arrested 15 crew members of an intruding Chinese ship in the Japanese claimed but Chinese contested Senkaku islands,’ Raza asked. The Indian government tried to downplay the Red Army movement by labeling it as a ‘localised matter’, he added.

‘China has traditionally spoken in two voices. When it comes to diplomatic talks with India, the Chinese show a great amount of ‘understanding’. But they never cease an opportunity to pour scorn on India,’ he added. ‘Although this Middle Sector does not have any link with China, the only thing which attracted it towards this region is the trade between Tibet and Uttarakhand. Since there is no direct trade between these border areas, it only shows their aggressive tactics against India,’ said Nautiyal. Meanwhile, the Indian government in Rajya Sabha said on 19 February, 2014, that there are number of adequate troops positioned at Border Out Posts (BOPs) and border areas are patrolled regularly. In the Barahoti region, the government of India has sanctioned construction of 14 kms long Sumna-Rimkhim road (Rimkhim is close to Barahoti), which is under construction by Border Roads Organization (BRO).

As on December, 2013, formation cutting of 3.08 kms has already been done. The probable date of completion of the rest of the roads is December, 2016 approximately.
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