M A I N   N E W S

MEA, Defence differ over threat from China in PoK
Ajay Banerjee & Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, October 6
The Defence Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry, the two strategic arms of the government, seem to be playing different notes in an orchestra when playing the ‘China tune’.

While the defence establishment sees China as a threat it may possibly have to tackle in case of any eventuality, the foreign office apparently wants the “aggressive media” to tone down, believing that differences with China are being worked out.

Indian defence forces have already done their war-gaming on the possibility of tackling Chinese troops on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) if a skirmish takes place in the Himalayan region of Ladakh and contiguous areas of Baltistan and Gilgit in PoK, where some 4,000 Chinese troops are present.

This military war-gaming in April at the Leh-based 14 corps headquarters and included the defence of Siachen glacier that abuts Chinese-controlled PoK area called the Shaksham valley.

The widening of Karakoram highway connecting Xinjiang with Pakistan and its realignment pose a fresh challenge to the Indian Army. In 1971, the Army had factored in the possibility of China’s intervention when it attacked East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Hence, the attack was timed in late early December 1971 when the Himalayan passes would be snow-bound.

The diplomatic community, meanwhile, harps on the fact that not a single shot has been fired across the Sino-India border in several decades. Informed sources believe aggressive reporting by the Indian media was undoing the diplomatic gains with China in recent years, particularly on the trade and economic front.

Sources said at every meeting, the Chinese express concern at Indian media reports and the Indian diplomats have a tough time explaining to them that the media is free and hardly ever toes the government line. The Defence Ministry, possibly not wanting a repeat of the ill-preparedness of 1962, is circumspect.

The Indian Army does point to the fact that there have been seven ‘intrusions’ in September this year alone along the contentious Demchok area in South-Eastern Ladakh and the Pangyang-so lake. Last November, the Union Home Ministry wrote a letter to the J&K government, saying no construction can be allowed near Demchok area on the India side with explicit permission - which is never given.

The India-China boundary is divided into four sectors - 1,600-km-long western sector Ladakh, 550 km middle sector - HP and Uttarakhand, 200 km Sikkim sector and 1,100 km eastern sector. Large portions of this LAC are not delineated.





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