India to hold ground in Ladakh
India and China today continued to maintain their respective troops at the flashpoint at Burtse in Northern Ladakh even as a flag meeting of local commanders of the armies of both sides is expected tomorrow.
The Indian troops have been asked to stay put and are to be there till status quo ante is restored and agreed upon at the flag meeting.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh cancelled his scheduled visit to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh that was to commence on September 15.
The situation has not escalated since last night. Yesterday, both sides showed banners to each other, asking the other side to withdraw. Unfurling banners is part of the 2005 protocol on border management to prevent gun-toting troops from reacting in the heat-of-the-moment. India had ramped up its military presence on seeing a Chinese build-up on the other side.
Top sources told The Tribune that troop reinforcements had been stationed by either side over the past two-three days. The Indian side is at disadvantage as its nearest base is at a distance from the spot of the flashpoint
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has its base close by and has a kind of “kutcha” mountain track approaching the spot from its side. The PLA had built a watchtower–a kind of fully serviced solar-powered hut at an altitude of 17,000 feet.
The Chinese construction was bang on the “border patrolling line”. The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) protested. The hut also had a camera that recorded the movement of Indian troops.
The Indian side asked the PLA for a flag meeting on seeing the watchtower. There was no response for almost 48 hours. The Indian troops were sent to remove the hut. The camera and other material found there would be handed over to the Chinese side at the flag meeting scheduled for tomorrow, sources said. The meeting was to be held today, but was postponed for tomorrow.
The “border patrolling line” is a way to address areas where even the alignment of un-demarcated LAC is disputed. The LAC alignment is roughly accepted by both sides in Lakakh, but some pockets remain where the “border patrolling line” is the accepted principle.
This is an informal un-demarcated line and troops on either side patrol the areas that they perceive as their own. The border patrolling line is the farthest point to which military patrols come from the Chinese side.
The Burtse area, being adjacent to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), forms part of huge Depsang plains perceived by India as its own territory. However, China claims it to be its territory as it gives it a tactical edge over the area, including the airfield that was made operational by the Indian Air Force (IAF) a few years ago.
The area was in news in April 2013 when a 21-day stand-off between troops of either side ended after four flag meetings between the two sides.