Monday, May 19, 2008

Arunachal not enough, now China wants Sikkim

Surya Gangadharan / CNN-IBN

New Delhi: It would seem China is determined to broaden the areas of territorial dispute with India. To their claims on areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing wants to add Sikkim, which China had accepted as part of India only a few years ago.

The area being claimed by the Chinese is a sliver of territory jutting into Tibet – the Indian Army refers to it as the ‘Finger Area’.

Chinese troops were trying to lay a road cutting through the Finger Area that would link up their locations on either side of it.

The Indian Army objected when China claimed this area during flag meetings and also diplomatically in Beijing.

“This is a flat area, same height as the Tibetan plateau from where forces can be launched to cut of the Shigatse-Yatung highway,” said Lt Gen Sheru Thapliyal, explaining why the area was crucial to India.

China-watchers in India say this is part of Beijing's tactics against India, probing Indian military defences on the ground, gauging the response, and diplomatically keeping up the psychological pressure on India.

“Unfortunately, we do not react strongly enough when the Chinese raise these doubts; our attitude is to sweep the thing under the carpet,” pointed out Thapliyal.

The Chinese moves in Skkim are also related to their concerns in Tibet. Before the 1962 war, Tibet was sustained to the extent of 60 per cent through supplies from India that came through Sikkim's Nathula Pass. They want normal trade through Nathula but India prefers to restrict such commerce, keeping in view its own security concerns and the need to protect local industry.

Some intelligence reports even suggest China provoking an incident somewhere on the frontiers with India, with the intention of winning concessions from a government seen as weak as it heads into a general election.

With inputs from Mansi Sharma