Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why a new border agreement?

Chaglacham in winter
The Fifth India-China Strategic Dialogue was held in Delhi this week. While some progress is said to have been made in narrowing the ever-growing trade (im)balance in favour of China, Beijing remained stuck on its position on the border issue as well as on a possible collaboration on the Brahmaputra and other trans-border rivers.
After the meet, it was reported that “both sides put their faith in the most recent bilateral mechanism, the [2012] Working Mechanism on Border.”
Well, this has not stopped the Chinese intruding into India’s territory.
The new Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and her Chinese counterpart, Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin (who served many years as Director-General, Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) wanted to finalize a fresh Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA).
At a time the Chinese regularly try to create trouble on the LAC, can a new agreement be more efficient than the previous ones; to name them:
•    In 1993: Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Areas
•    In 1996: Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas
•    In 2005: On the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question
•    In 2012: Establishment of a working mechanism for consultation and co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs
Click to enlarge
One wonders why a new BDCA?
Is it just a pretext for the Prime Minister to visit Beijing?
Probably, but why can’t the PMO’s babus find a better excuse/reason?
For months, the media has mentioned incursions across the LAC in Ladakh, whether it is near Daulat Beg Oldi, Siri Jap, Chumar or Demchok.
Now, it appears that the Chinese have extended their intrusions to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly to the Anjaw district.
Former BJP MP, Tapir Gao claimed that early this month, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has intruded at least 30-40 km into Indian territory after over-running at least six of the nine Indian check posts. Gao even affirmed that the face-off continues near the McMahon Line.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Gao asserted that the incursion started around August 12. He explained that a group of BJP workers visited the area, located near Chaglagam in Anjaw district and confirmed the veracity of the information.
According to the former MP, some 200 PLA personnel are occupying six unmanned check posts, which serve as temporary camps for Indian forces patrolling in the area. Chaglagam is the last administrative circle located some 108 km south of the McMahon Line.
Tapir Gao explained that ever since the incursion took place, some 1,500 or 1,600 local people live in constant fear. The local administration has apparently informed Itanagar about the incident.
Like in Ladakh, one of the problems is that the Army is not deployed in the area; only 70 to 80 Indo-Tibetan Border Police troops are left facing the Chinese PLA.
Another local source said: “There are no roads or regular supply chain from our side to the areas occupied by the Chinese, so the Indian Army has to move on foot. Situation is grim as our local people are worried that the Chinese PLA may not vacate the occupied areas. Why does the Government of India not understand the gravity of the situation?”
Tapir Gao demanded the immediate deployment of the Army in the area; he also asked the Defence Minister AK Antony to pay a visit in Chaglagam.
In these conditions, is there any point for a Prime Minister to visit China?
If the 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012 agreements have been unable to check Chinese aggressiveness, how can a fifth one succeed?
The Chinese reasoning is that the new agreement could bring peace on the condition India accepts to freeze the development of the border areas.
A source told The Indian Express that India did not want to escalate the tension and efforts were on to resolve the differences: “Chinese troops had put up tents at the occupied position, but it was removed the next day. Efforts are on to end the standoff between the two sides. Currently, the 9 JAK Rifles are face to face with Chinese troops in Chaglagam sector.”
And the MEA parrots: “The Centre keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.”
An important point to note is that the latest Chaglagam incursion by the PLA depends on the Chengdu Military Region and not the Lanzhou Military Region like the ones in Ladakh and the Central Sector (Barahoti). It demonstrates a coordinated effort from the Central Military Commission in Beijing to pester India, which is too slowly catching up in terms of infrastructure development.  Last year, a local newspaper in Arunachal spoke of Delhi’s “reluctance to upgrade its resources along the international border in Arunachal Pradesh”
It said: “One glaring example is the border demarcation along Indo-China border near Chaglagam outpost in Anjaw district. Due to lack of proper boundary demarcation, the Chinese Army often intrudes through two passes of Glai Takre and Hadira Takre which are about 100 km from last ITBP base camp situated at Chaglagam.”
At that time, Anjaw Zilla Parishad Chairperson B. Tega had said that the Chinese often intrude in the area and puts up unknown signs and symbols on stones and trees inside the Indian Territory. Tega explained that after the departure of the Chinese, the Indian patrols were quick to erase the Chinese military marks and signs.
The Zilla Parishad leader had then suggested: “the Indian government needs to establish military camp at Tanya, Pompom and Laitakru areas for security and easy monitoring of border areas”.
In 2012, a Chaglagam district official had told the local press: “due to non availability of proper motorable road from Chaglagam to Glai Takre and Hadira Takre, the Indian patrolling team takes 4 to 5 days to reach the border; this pose a danger during emergency time."
The official urged the government to widen the Chaglagam-Hayuliang road for transportation of military and other heavy vehicles and stated: “The Chinese government has connected its border area with highways. On the other hand, India is yet to make any roads leading to all border posts in Arunachal Pradesh even today.”
Incursions are not only happening in Arunachal. On July 25, The Hindustan Times (HT), quoting some top government source, reported that some 21 PLA troops crossed the LAC in Barahoti area of Uttarakhand.
It appears that the Chinese soldiers moved back after straying across LAC for more than an hour. The HT said: “This was the third straight intrusion this month apart from a face-off in Chumar on July 16-17, and another one on July 12-13 in Arunachal Pradesh.”
This particular one in the Central Sector occurred after maps have been exchanged between India and China. It is the only sector where it has been done.
The intrusion took place just before the Joint Secretary (East Asia) Gautam Bambawalla met a Chinese delegation headed by the Director General (Boundary Affairs) to discuss steps to make the LAC peaceful.
During the two-day official-level talks held under the 2012 agreement, the Indian and Chinese sides discussed ways to maintain peace along the LAC; the MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin candidly admitted: “The delegations reviewed recent developments in the India-China border areas.”
One could also ask: what is the point to have a new agreement if no tangible progress has occurred with the existing mechanism; it is not one more visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Beijing which will change this state of affairs.
Another sign that relations are not what they should be is that according to an official release, the two sides discussed “enhancing understanding on the utilization of trans-border river waters”. Here again, the Chinese are not ready to have set up a proper working mechanism to dispel Indian fears that the waters of the Brahmaputra will be diverted.
The time has come for the Indian Government to publish a White Paper and tell the Indian public what is going on. Why a new agreement is required when we already have four?
Nehru used to regularly issue White Papers (15 White Papers were published between 1959 and 1965), why should the present government not do the same? It would be wise before they lose the files!

No comments: