New Delhi: India and China are working on a formula wherein their troops will patrol forward locations every alternate week, so as to avoid violent face-offs between soldiers on the ground.

Top government sources said this has been the established practice on the countries’ border in the Northeast, and has worked well barring the occasional face-off. However, the sources said that border infrastructure development along the LAC, as planned by India, will continue since the activities are well within territory it controls.

“In the Northeast, both sides patrol every week to their patrolling points. We know when the Chinese are coming and they know when we are coming. This ensures that the troops don’t come face-to-face. This is something that can be done in the forward areas of Ladakh too,” a source said.

The source added that local commanders in the Northeast speak to each other regularly — a practice that has continued even during the Ladakh stand-off, with the Chinese even saying that both sides must ensure that what happened in the northern sector should not be allowed to develop there.

“However, we are not leaving anything to chance. Our strict vigil continues all along the LAC. There has not been any kind of aggressive deployment by the Chinese in the Northeast,” the source said.

However, the sources underlined that the formula being worked out will come into effect only when disengagement at the LAC is completed.

On 22 September, India insists China needs to take steps for disengagement first, since it was the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that moved in.

China’s Aggressive Patrolling Started Since Doklam

Sources said according to previous India-China agreements, each side is supposed to have a patrol strength of 15-20 troopers.

However, since the 2017 Doklam stand-off, when India stepped into Bhutanese territory and blocked China’s illegal road construction activity, the PLA started bring in bigger patrols along the LAC.

“From 15-20, the number increased to 30 and so on. It has been happening over a period of time. It came to such a point that they started coming en masse and surrounding our troops. This resulted in scuffles, and that led to stone throwing. Then, the Chinese started bringing in clubs and sharp weapons like machetes,” a source said.

The source added that this is what happened on 15 June in the Galwan Valley.

“It was a melee. We could not open fire because the bullets could have hit our own,” the source said.

India has made it clear to China that its soldiers will open fire to defend themselves, and Chinese tactics of “using mass” will not be tolerated.

China has more than doubled its air bases, air defence positions, and heliports near the LAC since the Doklam crisis.

“The 2017 Doklam crisis appears to have shifted China’s strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of air bases, air defence positions, and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years,” a report by leading global geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor had said.