NEW DELHI: Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Wednesday briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on an alleged Chinese incursion in the disputed Eastern Ladakh region amid calls by rightwing hawks in Delhi to escalate the standoff.
The CCS meeting took place amid a proposal to send Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid to Beijing with a clear brief on May 9 to probe ways to amicably de-escalate the border crisis. His visit is expected to be followed by back-to-back tours by the prime ministers to each other’s capitals, in May by the Chinese and June by the Indian.
Rightwing opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, want the government to scrap the proposed visit, a move that looks more aimed at embarrassing the prime minister than at winning anything out of Beijing.
“The CCS met and the Army Chief briefed us on the Ladakh situation,’’ Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who is also a member of the CCS, told journalists after the meeting.
According to Indian accounts, about 30 to 40 Chinese troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intruded into the Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh’s Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector and established camps on April 15.
“According to Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which remains disputed and un-demarcated, the Chinese incursion is nearly 19km deep inside the Indian territory,” The Hindu said in what appears to be a reliable and objective report.
After three unsuccessful flag meetings between local commanders of the two sides and India making efforts through diplomatic channels and terming the incursion a ‘localised problem’, China has not yet retreated from the DBO sector in Depsang plains.
“The deadlock continues amid signs that the standoff may prolong further with Chinese troops staying put for many more days or even augmenting their strength gradually,” the newspaper said.
The army chief is learnt to have given a detailed situation report about the face-off with the Chinese troops and options before the government to resolve the issue during nearly an hour-long briefing to the CCS members.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Mr Khurshid and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde are other members of the CCS, which is chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Chinese side has been demanding dismantling of infrastructure on the Indian side in Eastern Ladakh that have come up in Fukche and Chumar as well as in the DBO sector. At the third flag meeting on Tuesday at Chushul between Brigadier-level officers from the two sides, India stated that Chinese troops should withdraw completely from the territory, The Hindu said.
It said that despite prevailing border tensions and two-week-old standoff, at Chushul in Ladakh which is roughly 100km from the face-off site, Indian soldiers on Wednesday crossed over to Chinese side and celebrated May Day with their Chinese counterparts.
Army sources said the formal event is known as a Border Personnel Meeting or BPM and are held four times every year. Chinese troops come over to celebrate India’s Republic Day on January 26 and Independence Day on August 15. India also reciprocates the friendly gesture on May 1 and October 1, the Chinese National Day. On May Day, the BPM began at around 11am and lasted till 3.30pm, sources told The Hindu. Such BPMs are held in Bumla, near Tawang, and Kibitho in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathula in Sikkim and Chushul.