About a fortnight ahead of Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s maiden visit on July 4 to Beijing, a small flap took place near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but both sides utilised the existing mechanisms to defuse the situation.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol in Chumar sector in Southern Ladakh took away a camera placed on the ground, about 6 km ahead of an Indian Army post.
India raised the issue of missing camera at a meeting of border personnel two days later on June 19 and China returned the non-functional camera earlier this month, government sources said here on Tuesday.
Seeking to play down the incident, government sources were not inclined to describe it as an “incursion” in the disputed territory where perceptions about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) differ.
The sources said the camera was put ahead of the Indian post to monitor the movement of Chinese troops along the LAC which was probably not to the liking of the PLA. The Indian side is at an advantageous position in Chumar as there is a road right up to the Army post whereas the area is not easily accessible from the Chinese side. In fact, the situation here is reverse. Instead of smooth roads for the Chinese, it is the Indians who have a motorable track to their forward locations while the PLA troops have to travel by mules.
The camera would alert India about the movement of Chinese patrol and because of the relatively better infrastructure, Indian security forces beat their Chinese counterparts on occupying a hillock that gives a clear line of sight for several kms. In fact, it was here the Indians had built a temporary tin shed after the Chinese set up camps in Depsang. The shed was dismantled in return for the Chinese restoring the status quo by removing the tents.
Both the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army patrol the desolate region, about 200 km from Depsang plains where a Chinese platoon had entered in April and set up camp about 19 km inside the Indian territory.
Diplomatic channels had worked overtime on both sides to defuse the tension and face-off in that region in Eastern Ladakh that lingered on for nearly three weeks. At that time India had agreed to dismantle some bunkers in the area.
Pointing to the joint statement issued at the end of Mr. Antony’s China visit on July 6, the sources said the two sides had noted that peace and tranquillity on the border was an important guarantor for the growth and development of bilateral cooperation. The two Defence Ministers also emphasized the importance of enhancing mutual trust and understanding between the two militaries.
It was also agreed to enhance visits of border troop delegations to promote dialogue and strengthen trust and cooperation. Similarly, it was also agreed to have Border Personnel Meetings (BPM) with greater frequency.