Kaho village in Arunachal Pradesh's Anjaw district, also known as the last village on Indian territory
Kaho village in Arunachal Pradesh's Anjaw district, also known as the last village on Indian territory|Irani Sonowal Lepcha
IN-DEPTH

Enter the Dragon: China, a 'habitual offender' on eastern frontier

Chinese intrusions on the eastern borders of the country are nothing new. But Army is on higher alert following the recent standoff in Ladakh. Our ground report

Irani Sonowal Lepcha

Irani Sonowal Lepcha

Anjaw/Itanagar/Gangtok: 'Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai' -- a catchphrase of India’s diplomacy with China in the mid -1950s -- is no longer a popular statement, as both the neighbouring countries are involved in a serious border standoff at eastern Ladakh since Monday night.

However, the border crisis between India and China is not a new phenomenon. There are various stretches of dispute along the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) -- is a loose demarcation line that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory in the Indian union territory of Ladakh and Chinese Tibet Autonomous Region.

The border between both the countries are divided into three sectors — Western (Ladakh), Middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) and Eastern (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh). The middle sector remains largely peaceful. India accuses China of illegally occupying Aksai Chin in Ladakh, while China does not accept the McMahon Line as the official border because it was signed by the Tibetan representatives in the 1914 Simla Convention, and claims the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.

The Indian government has instructed all armed forces units to be in the state of highest readiness – on operational alert – for any deployment in the light of tensions on the China border

The Indian government, meanwhile, has instructed all armed forces units to be in the state of highest readiness – on operational alert – for any deployment in the light of tensions on the China border.

Reportedly, army units had been moved forward in May, closer to the LAC, in all three sectors of the Sino-Indian border.

Deployment of Indian army troops have been reportedly increased in Arunachal Pradesh after the reports of India-China standoff in Ladakh since last month. However, the process has been intensified following the increasing tension between both the countries at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh since Monday night.

According of sources, Indian army has elevated not only personnel but also arms and ammunition near the border, especially near Tawang and Anjaw districts, as Arunachal Pradesh shares 1,126 km border with China.

As per the locals in Tawang, helicopters were seen hovering above them since the standoff. Bofors and other heavy arms and ammunition were also seen being taken towards the border

As per the locals in Tawang, helicopters were seen hovering above them since the standoff. Bofors and other heavy arms and ammunition were also seen being taken towards the border.

Some of the locals in Anjaw have said that they could see convoys of 40-50 vehicles of the Army to reaching there from different places.

As per military sources, the recent Galwan standoff is the first incident involving the casualty of Indian soldiers in a violent clash with the Chinese army after 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh.

Previously, there have been many reports of Chinese incursions in the north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.

As per the locals, in late December 2017 Chinese soldiers with road-building machines crossed up to 200 metres into Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh, reaching near a border village in the Upper Siang district before Indian troops stopped them.

A bunker prepared by the Indian army at Kaho village
A bunker prepared by the Indian army at Kaho villageIrani Sonowal Lepcha

Again in July-August 2019, Chinese troops reportedly entered up to 12 km on the Indian side in Anrella Valley of Arunachal’s Dibang Valley district.

Reportedly, the soldiers from the neighbouring country walked inside Indian territory, dismantled Indian army's summer camp built during a routine patrol and, eventually, Indian army jawans had to return to their base camp. Pictures and videos of this particular transgression have had also surfaced.

In September 2019, there were reports of wooden bridge built on Diomru Nalah in Chaglagam area near the India-China border in the frontier state.

The bridge was built on Diomru Nalah in Amaku area, ahead of Chaglagam circle, and is located on no man’s land.

If anyone goes by last year’s reports of incursions, the Chinese were predominantly seen in the eastern part of Arunachal, especially at Anjaw.

To know more on borders especially those areas in Arunachal Pradesh which were in news for Chinese incursions, Team Eastmojo went to Anjaw district recently.

Anjaw, the eastern most district in India, borders China on the north. Hawai is the district headquarters and is at an altitude of 1,296m above sea level.

Lohit River, a tributary of Bramhaputra River which is known Tsangpo in China, flows through the district. Anjaw district’s easternmost village is Dong, the place which witnesses the first sunrise in India (around 3 am).

Anjaw, the eastern most district in India, borders China on the north. Hawai is the district headquarters and is at an altitude of 1,296m above sea level
Chinese army writes on rocks and trees when inside Indian territory. This was found last year by a villager near Hadira Pass
Chinese army writes on rocks and trees when inside Indian territory. This was found last year by a villager near Hadira PassIrani Sonowal Lepcha
Chinese army's writings on rocks on the Indian side of the border
Chinese army's writings on rocks on the Indian side of the border Irani Sonowal Lepcha
Roads leading to Indian side of the border
Roads leading to Indian side of the border Irani Sonowal Lepcha

During their discussions with EastMojo regarding the Chinese intrusions, the locals at Anjaw district revealed various startling facts.

Kaho

Kaho, the last village along the India-China border, lies in Anjaw district’s Kibithoo circle. Just 2-km far from the McMahon line, this village has approximately 10 houses. People from the Meyor tribe live in this village. Till date, there has been no news of a major Chinese intrusion from this area because the territory is properly defined.

Chinese villages with good housing facilities and paddy fields can be seen from Kaho village. One can also see good roads on the Chinese side in the village while the condition of the roads on the Indian side here is really pathetic.

The Madan ridge works as a natural boundary. Soldiers of the Chinese army come till the ridge for flag march.

Mountain Kayu Hagam in Chaglagam circle
Mountain Kayu Hagam in Chaglagam circleIrani Sonowal Lepcha
Parts of Aphomlaa, a small village in Chaglagam circle known as 'Little China'
Parts of Aphomlaa, a small village in Chaglagam circle known as 'Little China'Irani Sonowal Lepcha
Roads leading to the McMahon Line
Roads leading to the McMahon LineEastMojo image

Little China

Aphomlaa is a small village in Chaglagam circle known as 'Little China'. This village has around 10-15 houses and a population of around 100. Villagers claim that Chinese (those separated during the Indo-Sino war and having relatives in this side of the boundary) visit this village frequently. Chinese items such as cigarettes and other eatables bought as gifts can be found in this village. Most of the time, they are asked to leave by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel.

Chaglagam has Digaru Mishmi-speaking people and on the other side, that is, in China near the border, the Chinese also reportedly speak the same but with some Chinese accent. Villagers said that they are their relatives. Previously, they had a very good bonding and used to visit each other on several occasions. However, post-1962 war, things have changed everything.

Few more information which talks about the importance of border demarcation was revealed later by locals under the condition of anonymity.

Hadira Pass and Glaitakru Pass are considered as two natural boundaries on the McMahon Line. The mountain in between the routes to Hadira and Glaitakru pass is known as Kayu Hagam.

Chinese army intrudes into Indian territory till Kholo camp, which is just 25 km from Chaglagam. Distance from Kholo camp to Hadira pass (McMahon Line) is only 47 km.

Kapapu -- the last ITBP base camp (towards Hadira pass) -- is 20-km from Chaglagam. Kapapu to Hadira pass is approximately 52 km.

Rocham – the last ITBP camp (towards Glaitakru pass) -- is 22.7 km from Chaglagam. Rocham to Glaitakru pass is approximately 56 km.

Chinese as well as the Indian army have increased their patrolling. Previously, it was only once in a year but now they patrol thrice in a year, said reports.

Kaho village, in Anjaw district also known as the last village in Indian territory
Kaho village, in Anjaw district also known as the last village in Indian territoryIrani Sonowal Lepcha
Chaglagam area
Chaglagam areaIrani Sonowal Lepcha
Glimpse of Kaho village
Glimpse of Kaho villageIrani Sonowal Lepcha

The last time the Chinese army intruded into Indian territory was in September. Arunachal Pradesh MP Tapir Gao claimed that the Chinese Army intruded into Indian territory here was in July which means Chinese army’s intrusion is frequent these days.

Diomro Nalah, a wooden bridge, was constructed by the Chinese army near Amako Camp, which is 25-km inside Indian territory. The claims made by Tapir Gao turned to be true.

Chinese army intrudes into Indian territory, draws Chinese characters and builds structures like small bridges and then leaves. Similarly, Indian army visits those places, erases the characters and then writes new characters in Hindi and comes back. But it’s always the Chinese who intrudes our places, not Indian army, the locals in the area said.

Indian army takes five to six days to reach Hadira Pass from Chaglagam.

“We don’t have any motorable roads till the border. However, the Chinese have motorable roads till the border,” sources in the Idian army said.

According to the villagers, one of the problems that's going to come to the fore very soon is that the Chinese army also intrudes into the Indian territory taking the Karang Awailang Lake route, which is allegedly less monitored by the ITBP.

The Chinese are now trying to build a new route till Phum Phum camp through this route, locals said.

Commenting on the Chinese government initiative to offer high living standard of people residing along the Chinese side of the Indo-China border here, the people in the locality allege that the Chinese have good houses with facilities like generators, solar panels, etc, unlike them.

“Mishmi hunters usually go inside the forest areas and sometimes reach the border. While trekking, the Mishmi hunters also meet some of the hunters from China. When asked about their life in China, the Chinese hunters share that they are having a good life there. The Chinese hunters also tell about the facilities provided by Chinese government that includes good houses, generators, solar panels, etc,” the villagers quoting some Mishmi hunters told EastMojo.

Naku La pass in North Sikkim

Reports of Chinese intrusion along Sikkim border, too, is nothing new. On May 9, 2020 there was a standoff with blows exchanged at the Naku La pass in North Sikkim along the LAC, located at 19,000 feet above sea level when a patrol party of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was stopped by Indian soldiers. The issue was later resolved at a local level.

A statement said that such temporary and short duration face-offs between the border guarding troops do occur as boundaries are not resolved.

The troops of both countries gave way to aggressive behaviour which resulted in minor injuries to troops. Following dialogue and interaction at local level, the two sides disengaged.

“Troops resolve such issues mutually as per established protocols," said a statement.

According to reports, such standoffs often occur between troops, however, there are no injuries caused earlier.

Doklam

The Indian Armed Forces and the PLA were involved in a 73-day standoff over the construction of a road by the Chinese in the Doklam Plateau claimed both by China as well as Bhutan. India, which supports Bhutan’s claim over the disputed area, sent in 270 troops to stop their Chinese counterparts. The construction of the road was stopped and the troops were mutually withdrawn. India’s strategic restraint enhanced Delhi’s profile in South East Asia.

Doklam is strategically located close to the Siliguri Corridor (also called Chicken’s Neck), connecting mainland India with its north-eastern states and is a vulnerable point for India. China, which has been consolidating its military presence in the Chumbi Valley, realise that Doklam would give them easy access to the Siliguri Corridor.

Nathu La & Cho La

The PLA launched an attack on the Indian posts in Nathu La in September 1967, while in October another clash took place at Cho La and ended on the same day. Independent sources suggest that India gained the tactical advantage in these clashes in Sikkim defeating the Chinese forces.

According to the defence ministry, 88 Indian army and 340 Chinese soldiers were killed during the two incidents. The competition to control the strategic disputed border land in Chumbi Valley was the major cause leading to these incidents.

(With bureau inputs)

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