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12 Chinese forays in Ladakh since Jan

12 Chinese forays in Ladakh since Jan

Author: Rajat Pandit
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 31, 2008

Introduction: Despite Tibet Unrest, No Let-Up In PLA's Breaches Across Length Of Indo-China Border

Chinese troops have intruded a dozen times since January into Indian territory in the strategic Pangong Tso lake area in eastern Ladakh as part of Beijing's continuing aggressive posture all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Pangong Tso (Tso means lake in Ladakhi), two-thirds of which is controlled by China as it extends from India to Tibet, and other parts of Ladakh like Demchok and Trig Heights are, in fact, witnessing "an enhanced level of activity'' by the People's Liberation Army, sources said. "The sector is witnessing aggressive Chinese foot, motorised and boat patrolling. On March 23, for instance, Chinese troops in a vehicle-mounted patrol crossed over into our territory on Pangong Tso's southern bank and stayed there for some time with impunity before going back,'' said a source.

Pangong Tso, at an altitude of 4,218 metres, has become a "hot'' area since the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan, with China even constructing a "track'' right up to the lake's southern bank during that time.

Ladakh, of course, is just one part of the story. China may be enmeshed in the Tibetan turmoil at the moment but there has been simply no let up in its "aggressive patrolling'' in all three sectors-western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).

India, in fact, recorded well over 140 intrusions by Chinese troops across the 4,057-km LAC in 2007 alone. This included transgressions into Sikkim in August-September, though China had earlier accepted that the state was a part of India.

Coupled with this is the stunning build-up of military infrastructure by China all along the LAC, especially in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which makes it possible for it to amass a large number of troops at the border in doublequick time.

Observers say the objective is to ramp up pressure on India to stick to its line on "Tibet being an integral part of China'' as well as to strengthen Chinese claims on disputed areas along the LAC.

The government, however, continues to downplay the Chinese intrusions in public, holding that there is no need to "press the panic button'' as "peace and tranquillity'' prevail along the LAC.

Both foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister A K Antony have said the "incidents'' take place due to "differing perceptions'' of the LAC. "Whenever there is any issue (intrusion), it is always taken up through the appropriate channels,'' said Antony, who is set to visit Tawang in early-April.

However, the PM's visit to Arunachal earlier this year had led to a diplomatic row between the two countries, with China claiming the entire state as its own territory.

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