The Debate

Riding Horses and Ponies, 50 PLA Troops March Into India

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The Debate

Riding Horses and Ponies, 50 PLA Troops March Into India

The increasingly frequent Chinese intrusions into India have coincided with greater diplomatic ties.

The Hindu reports that “riding on horses and ponies, around 50 Chinese soldiers” crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) into India last week, demanding that Indian forces relinquish the “occupied” territory. Zee News claims that a two-day standoff ensued between Indian and Chinese forces before the later returned to China, although The Hindu indicates the standoff was of a much shorter duration.

This incursion is the latest in what has become a growing trend of Chinese incursions into India’s side of the LoAC. In April and May of this year, Chinese forces crossed over into India and step up camp inside the country for three weeks, when leaders from both sides worked out a compromise for them to withdraw. 

Then, last month, a group of Chinese soldiers briefly crossed over into the Indian side of the border and destroyed observation posts and cameras belonging to Indian military forces. China has repeatedly protested India’s construction of observation posts along its side of the border.

Earlier this month, Indian media outlets also reported that two Chinese helicopters had briefly violated Indian airspace.

On Wednesday of last week, a day after the latest incursion began—and possibly while the 50 Chinese troops were still inside India—India’s cabinet committee on security (CCS) gave its official stamp of approval on a Defense Ministry proposal to raise a mountain strike corps to be deployed on the border with China. The Diplomat first reported on the proposal at the beginning of June.

At the time, it was being reported that the strike corps would consist of around 40,000 troops. After the proposal was approved last week, Indian media outlets differed on how large the force would be, with figures typically ranging from 45,000 to 50,000 troops.

However, even as the situation on the border has intensified significantly, relations between senior military and political leaders from both countries have almost never been better. For example, earlier this month the two sides announced they would hold their first ever naval and air force drills in the “near future.” The announcement came shortly after Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony returned from a trip to China. He was the first Indian Defense Minister to visit China in seven years.

Similarly, China shrugged off the announcement of the new mountain strike corps last week, saying that it was still “willing to join hands with India to safeguard peace and tranquility of the border areas.” This echoed the rhetoric Premier Li Keqiang used when visiting India in June. The trip was Li’s first since assuming his newest position.

During the Li visit Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he had accepted an invitation to visit China at the “earliest opportunity.” Reports in India have suggested the two sides hope to find a time for this trip before the end of the year.