Last week, India detained some People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers temporarily after 200 of them intruded into the Indian side and tried to damage unoccupied bunkers, reported News18. The incident occurred in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh; a district China claims to be a part of ‘Southern Tibet.’
News 18 reported that the Chinese troops transgressed into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between Yangtse and Bum La border pass. Indian soldiers quickly challenged their aggressive move and detained a few of them. Although both armies have no official comment, News18 reported that the Indian side did not suffer any damages. A source informed, “The matter was subsequently resolved at the local military commanders’ level. The Chinese soldiers were released and the situation was defused.”
The source added that there is no formal demarcation of the India-China border and that both countries view the LAC differently. “Peace and tranquillity in these areas of differing perceptions have been possible by adhering to existing agreements and protocols between the two countries… Whenever patrols of both sides physically meet, the situation is managed according to established protocols and mechanisms agreed by both sides. Physical engagement can last for a few hours prior to disengaging as per mutual understanding,” the source concluded.
The strategic importance of the Tawang region and China’s record at breaching LAC
News 18 reported that both sides would soon hold the 13th round of Commander-level talks in Eastern Ladakh and discuss the disengagement of troops. China had been eyeing the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh since the 1962 India-China war. The region provides strategic access to the plains of Brahmaputra, Guwahati, and the extended Siliguri corridor, thereby making it significant militarily. An official informed, “Bomdilla, Nechiphu and Se La (connecting Tawang to the rest of Arunachal Pradesh) — aid in deployment of defences by India.”
However, this was not the first time the Chinese PLA soldiers breached existing agreements and intruded into the Indian territory. In September this year, the Economic Times reported that the Chinese forces marched aggressively in the Barahoti sector in Uttarakhand near the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Similarly, around 200 Chinese soldiers entered the Indian side of LAC at Yangtse in 2016. Before that, they had tried to climb a 250-metre long wall and damaged it in 2011.
India and China disengage at Gogra in Ladakh
In August 2021, the Indian Army had announced that disengagement was completed at another friction point along the LAC with China. The Indian Army, in its statement, said that both sides restored the landform in Gogra to the pre-standoff period. “As per the agreement reached during Corps Commander talks, India and China have ceased forward deployments in (Patrolling Point) PP-17 (Gogra Post) in a phased, coordinated and verified manner,” the statement released by the Indian Army said. The disengagement process was carried out over 4-5 August 2021.
The Army said that all temporary structures and other infrastructure created by both sides were dismantled and mutually verified. “The agreement ensures that Line of Actual Control in this area will be strictly observed and respected by both sides. Both India, China expressed commitment to take talks forward and resolve remaining issues along LAC in eastern Ladakh,” the statement further added.