Monday, January 28, 2008

China lodges protest over Indian troop movements

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, Jan 27: China has lodged a diplomatic protest over Indian military activity in Sikkim and claimed that Indian troops were trying to be active on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides their troops along the disputed Himalayan border, the Sunday Express said.

Coming shortly after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful tour of China earlier this month, which followed the first ever joint exercise by the armies of both countries, the protest has stumped New Delhi, the paper said.

“It’s learnt that China has taken objection to building of structures along the LAC and the Indo-Bhutan border, pointing out that this is in violation of the understanding to maintain peace in the area,” the Sunday Express said. “The timing of the protest — after Singh’s China visit and ahead of his maiden trip to Arunachal Pradesh — has once again brought the boundary question in the spotlight.”

India last week appointed former army chief Gen J.J. Singh as its governor in the disputed state. India and China signed an agreement on peace and tranquillity along their borders in 1993 that appears to have worked well.

India says some transgressions by Chinese troops have occurred but given the nature of the terrain some of this is inevitable. “It may be noted that India did not specifically take up reports of Chinese incursions and transgressions during the visit (by the Indian prime) despite confirmations of aggressive patrolling by China and a reassessment of Chinese ability to move in troops more quickly,” the Express said.

The reopening of claims, particularly on the Sikkim border, has taken India by surprise, it added. “According to informed sources, India has been strengthening existing defences on its side of the LAC in Sikkim,” the paper acknowledged. “It may be noted that troops about a division strong had been moved out of the area to Jammu & Kashmir a few years ago. But over the past year, they have been moved back to their defensive positions in North Bengal and Sikkim.” As a result, some of the facilities and structures that existed previously are being strengthened and are not seen by Delhi as a violation.

The newspaper noted that there is fresh thrust at the political level to improve infrastructure along the LAC, which includes building more accessible roads and better facilities near Indian posts. “In fact, ahead of the PM’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Defence Ministry has given its go-ahead for IAF reviving four airfields in the state.”