In a ‘risk pointer’ in the 24 April issue of Courcy’s Intelligence Brief we noted that at a time when China is engaged in an increasingly acrimonious territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea, it appears to be testing the border with India as well. This incident is showing signs of developing into something serious despite India’s initial attempts to play it down.
On 15 April, a platoon-strength contingent of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) area of Ladakh, moved 10km inside Indian territory, and established a tented post. Since then they have refused to go back to their side of the LAC, and China maintains “they have never crossed the line by a step”.
DBO is of some strategic importance to India as it provides an access point to the disputed (and Chinese-occupied) Aksai Chin as well as a position from which to monitor Chinese and Pakistani military activity along the Karakoram Highway.
India has sought to downplay the incident in public, with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid saying on 24 April: “We have a system in place which kicks in when there is an issue…I do not think we should be talking about it in too much detail because [we should] let the process work out a solution.” He added that perceptions about the LAC vary and “sometimes disagreements on the ground can take place”.
But, underlining the potential seriousness of the issue, on the same day Indian army chiefs reported to India’s China Study Group, which is headed by the National Security Advisor and includes the Secretaries of the Ministries of Defence, Home, and External Affairs, on the “various military options” open to India to deal with the incursion.
This briefing followed a separate incursion by China on 21 April, five days after the DBO incursion, when Beijing sent two military helicopters into Indian airspace at Chumar. Chumar is about 300km from Leh. There was a previous incursion by Chinese helicopters near Chumar last September, when China went as far as to land troops who destroyed bunkers and old Indian army tents.
In the meantime, in DBO, India’s Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have established a position 300 metres from the Chinese troops, where they are being joined by a contingent from the Ladakh Scouts, an infantry regiment with mountain warfare expertise.
NOTE ON SENKAKU ISLAND DISPUTE:
On 24 April, the PRC-owned Hong Kong daily Wen Wei Po reported on the successful “driving out” of Japanese fishing boats from waters around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and commented: “The days when Japan can do whatever she likes amid the Senkaku Islands sovereignty dispute are gone forever.” It added that China now held the “administrative rights” to the islands and that Beijing is now “more confident and active in defending its core interests in the disputed islands”.
From: Courcy’s Intelligence Service, c/o Intelligence Research Ltd, 61 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HW. Email: editorial@ courcyint.com. Phone: 020-7251-0012