Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The First Chinese Retaliations

The Fingers
It looks like China has started retaliating against India.
Apart from the cancellation of the Kailash Yatra, China has taken some new measures to show 'how upset they are' with India's reaction to the construction of a road on Bhutanese territory.

The Pangong Tso Clash
China can’t do much at the trijunction between Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, but Beijing has now started retaliating in other areas; while the confrontation continues near Doka La in Bhutan, some Chinese troops tried to occupy an area in Ladakh on the shores of the Pangong Tso.
According to India Today, the incident took place on Tuesday morning and lasted for about half-an-hour; later both sides pulled back: “Indian and Chinese forces had a brief face-off in the north bank of Pangong lake in Ladakh.”
A military source told the publication: “The Chinese patrols lost their way due to bad weather conditions but it ended up with heated exchanges between the two sides resulting in stone pelting as well that caused minor injuries to people on both sides.”
It shows the mounting tension following the Doklam confrontation.
Apparently the incident took place between Finger Four and Finger Five on the Pangong Tso (lake): “India claims the area till Finger Eight but controls and dominates up to Finger Four. The situation was brought under control after thirty minutes of face-off, when both sides held their banners indicating either side to pull back to their respective positions,” says the HT.
The South China Morning Post reported from Hong Kong: “Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in an altercation in the western Himalayas …further raising tensions between the two countries which are already locked in a two-month stand-off in another part of the disputed border. …The two sides have frequently accused each other of intrusions into each other’s territories, but clashes are rare.”
Some reports say that the Chinese soldiers carried iron rods and stones, and in the melee there were minor injuries on both sides.

Cancellation of the Border Personnel Meetings
Another sign that the tension is mounting: Border Personnel Meetings (BPM) were to be held like every August 15 at five places along the border. This year they did not take place.
India and China hold BPM at five points: Daulat Beg Oldie and Chusul in Ladakh, Kibithoo and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu La in Sikkim.
Though invited the Chinese officials did not turn up. It shows that Beijing has not digested as yet the Doklam incident and the fact that India stopped them building a road.
Some Indian media reported that the meetings could not be held as China’s PLA officials did not respond to communications from the Indian Army.

The Hand-in-Hand joint military exercises
The fate of the annual India-China Hand-in-Hand joint military drill hangs also in balance as India has not received any word from the Chinese side, which is supposed to host the exercise this year.
Since 2007, when it was first held, an Initial Planning Conference (IPC) is held in the host country in June-July but so far there has been a ‘studied silence’ from Beijing, says The Economic Times which cites a source in the Army: “The IPC takes place in the country where the exercise would be held. We sent a message to the Chinese side but there was no response. It should have happened latest but July end, but the IPC never took place.”
They will probably no joint exercises this year.

No Rivers’ flow data
Perhaps more serious, it appears that China had stopped sending the routine information on river water flow of the Sutlej and Brahamaputra.
According to The Hindustan Times: “At a time when major rivers in Himachal Pradesh are in spate due to heavy rain, lack of information from China on water inflow from Pareechu rivulet that meanders through the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has prompted the Central Water Commission (CWC) to seek intervention of the ministry of water resources.”
It had been agreed that India and China would annually renew the protocol on sharing information on two major rivers — Brahmaputra and Sutlej: “But China has reportedly stopped sharing information with India on water inflow in Pareechu. The lake across the Pareechu river, which was measured the size of 20 football grounds, burst in 2005 causing major flooding in the Sutlej. Gushing waters had washed away the strategic Hindustan-Tibet road, National Highway-22 at a number of places, 10 bridges and 11 ropeways. About 15 motorable bridges and 8 jeepable roads and footbridges were damaged on the 10-km stretch of NH-22 between Wangtoo in Kinnaur and Samdoh in Lahaul Spiti districts.”
The HT’s report continues: “No loss of life was reported as the army and civil authorities anticipating the breach in glacial lake in Pareechu had evacuated 5,000 people along the Sutlej. Total losses caused due to flooding had been pegged at Rs 800 crore.”
The Pareechu river originates in India, then it meanders into Tibet and then merges into the Sutlej near Sumdoh (a border post in India). A glacial lake on Pareechu formed behind a landslide dam in 2004; on June 26, 2005, it busted provoking Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). After the 2005 GLOF, India and China signed a protocol for sharing information on the water level from Pareechu and the Sutlej.
China has apparently stop sharing information about the water inflow, which makes it dangerous for the local population in Kinnaur.
Senior scientific officer, SS Randhawa told the HT: “The Himachal government constantly monitors the water flow in Pareechu through its department of science technology. But so far the department has been unable to get clear satellite images. Last time, we checked images on July 8 and there was no danger at that time. We use remote sensing technology to monitor the water bodies in the river catchment. But we have been unable to get clear images in the last one week as there are thick clouds over the catchment area.”
I have earlier mentioned the long article in The Global Times about the diversion of the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra.
Another warning that Beijing has started retaliating for to the ‘loss’ of its road in Bhutan?
China is indeed playing a dangerous game.

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