China’s People’s Liberation Army has “incrementally” occupied 640 km of Indian territory along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) that demarches the Sino-Indo border, Indian media sources reported this week, citing a report by an official advisory body.
According to reports in the Hindustan Times and Headlines Today, Chinese military forces have gradually assumed control over an aggregate of 640 km across three sectors along the border in Depsang, Chumar and Pangong Tso. The media reports also said that after a PLA incursion into Indian territory on April 15, Indian forces have been prevented from patrolling the Depsang Bulge.
The media outlets based their stories on a report they had obtained by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), an official advisory board, which was submitted to the Prime Minister’s office on August 10 (Headlines Today said August 12). According to the Prime Minister’s office, the NSAB is “is a multi-disciplinary body comprising persons of eminence form outside Government with the principal function of providing long- term prognosis and analysis to the National Security Council and recommending solutions and policy options to the issues raised by them.”
The report was authored by Shyam Saran, the NSAB chairman, who was visiting the area from August 2 through August 9 at the request of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Saran, a former foreign secretary, was one of the leading architects of India’s plan to build up its infrastructure along the border in order to better protect it from Chinese forces.
The issue sparked a heated debate in India’s parliament, the Lok Sabha. Yashwant Sinha, a senior Parliamentary leader from the opposition party, BJP, said this week: “Parliament appears to be unaware of the situation there [along the border] and the defense minister should clarify the actual position.”
Defense Minister A.K. Antony, however, refused to comment on the report when approached by Headlines Today.
When asked about the report by Headlines Today, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said:
“Actions are taken on the basis of information that is received. It is not possible to keep forces everywhere permanently. We take action if we get to know something. There is nothing to worry about. We have acted on all information.”
Khursid refused to comment on the specifics of the NSAB report, however.
Saran, the NSAB chairman, appeared to play down the report in comments to India’s Business Standard.
“The NSAB does not concern itself with operational matters,” Saran said, according to the Business Standard. He added, “The NSAB has the strengthening of border management on its agenda and will, on the basis of all inputs available to it, make appropriate recommendations to the government after due deliberation.”
China and India dispute the actual placement of their shared border, with Beijing claiming about 92,000 km of Indian territory. China has repeatedly violated what India considers to be the LoAC this year, prompting strong protests from India.
A visit to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was almost cancelled earlier this year after PLA units crossed the border and set up camp inside Indian territory. In response to Chinese violations of the border, India has also decided to create a mountain strike force of 40,000 troops to be deployed along the border.
The two sides have recently been making progress on lowering tensions on the border, with Li’s trip to India in May and Indian Defense Ministry Antony visiting China in July.
Last month Antony even floated the possibility of the two sides signing a Border Defense Cooperation Agreement when PM Singh visits China in October.
“Two rounds of negotiations have been held so far. The purpose of the proposed agreement is to formalize mechanisms and procedures to enhance mutual trust and confidence between the border troops of India and China and to facilitate the maintenance of peace and tranquility along the border with China,” Antony said in remarks to the lower house of India’s Parliament.
The Border Defense Cooperation Agreement would be aimed at avoiding armed conflict while the actual lines of the border are agreed too.
China is believed to be opposed to such an agreement unless it includes a freeze on the building up of infrastructure along the border.