Saturday, November 17, 2007

Antony to visit Sikkim as Chinese 'incursions' rise

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of mounting 'incursions' by Chinese armed forces into Indian territory and the military infrastructure build-up in the Tibet Autonomous Region, defence minister A K Antony will be visiting forward areas in Sikkim in early-December.

Antony, accompanied by Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and other senior officials, will be visiting Nathu La, which links Tibet with Sikkim, as well as the strategically-located 112 Mountain Brigade, among other places.

Antony, on his part, however, chose to downplay the stepped up 'incursions' by the Chinese forces all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), holding that the 'incidents' take place due to 'differing perceptions' about the still-unresolved border.

"Whenever there is an incursion, we take it up at flag meetings (between Indian and Chinese commanders in the area concerned) or through diplomatic channels...the border, by and large, has been peaceful," he said.

India, of course, is always cagey about saying anything which may ruffle the feathers of a prickly China. But that does not hide the fact that there have been around 300 cases of intrusions by Chinese troops -- right from east Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh to Joshimath in Uttarakhand and Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh -- over the last two years.

The Chinese intrusions into Sikkim in August-September, in particular, have accentuated worries here, especially since Beijing had earlier accepted it to be a part of India. Then, of course, there have been reports of Chinese intrusions into Bhutan as well in recent days.