A few troops from China were temporary detained by Indian soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang after around 200 of them crossed over into the Indian side from Tibet and attempted to damage unoccupied bunkers, highly placed government sources said

The incident took place last week between the border pass of Bum La and Yangtse, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

According to sources, the Chinese patrol party’s transgression into the Indian side of the LAC was strongly contested by Indian troops and a few Chinese soldiers were temporarily detained.

“The matter was subsequently resolved at the local military commanders’ level. The Chinese soldiers were released and situation was defused,” a source in the government told News18.com.

There was no official comment from the Army on the incident. However, defence and security sources told News18.com that there has been no damage to Indian defences.

“The India-China border has not been formally demarcated. Hence, there is a difference in perception of LAC between the countries. Peace and tranquillity in these areas of differing perceptions has been possible by adhering to existing agreements and protocols between the two countries,” the source said, adding that both sides undertake patrolling activities up to their line of perception.

“Whenever patrols of both sides physically meet, the situation is managed according to established protocols and mechanisms agreed by both sides. Physical engagement can last for a few hours prior to disengaging as per mutual understanding,” the source said.

A show of Chinese aggression in the region is not new. In 2016, more than 200 Chinese troops had reportedly transgressed into the Indian side of the LAC at Yangtse, but had gone back in a few hours.

In 2011, Chinese troops had tried to scale a 250-metre-long wall on the Indian side of the LAC and damaged it, leading to New Delhi lodging a protest with Beijing.

The latest transgression comes just over a month after a similar intrusion wherein Chinese troops had reportedly carried out aggressive patrolling in Uttarakhand’s Barahoti sector near the LAC. As per a report in the Economic Times, the Chinese had spent a few hours in the sector before turning back.

India and China continue to be engaged in a standoff at the LAC in eastern Ladakh since May last year, even though a disengagement of troops from both sides has taken place in the sensitive Pangong Tso area and the Gogra area after a series of military and diplomatic talks. However, there has been no de-escalation by either side, as both continue to maintain thousands of additional troops along the LAC.

India and China will soon be holding the 13th round of Corps Commander-level talks in eastern Ladakh, in which focus will likely be on further disengagement of troops at the Hot Springs area.

But, while a disengagement process is underway in eastern Ladakh, the latest intrusions indicate that the Chinese are attempting to expand their scope of transgressions to the eastern and the central sectors too.

Why Is Tawang Important?

Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh has traditionally remained a friction point between India and China. In the 1962 war, China had captured Tawang within the first few days. It had laid claim on Tawang as part of a larger Tibet, while claiming Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet.

The historical significance of Tawang stems from the fact that it is the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and is an important seat in Tibetan Buddhism after Lhasa. Strategically, Tawang provides geographical access up to the Brahmaputra plains and provides the shortest axis to Tezpur in Assam.

A senior defence official told News18.com that the lines of communication from Tawang stretched to Guwahati and the extended Siliguri corridor, which makes Tawang important from the military point of view.

“The three major passes there — Bomdilla, Nechiphu and Se La (connecting Tawang to the rest of Arunachal Pradesh) — aid in deployment of defences by India,” the official said.

At present, Indian troops are preparing to brace yet another harsh winter across the LAC. While China has been carrying out major infrastructure upgradation on its side of the LAC, India too has developed rapid and mass-scale infrastructure in the region for thousands of the additional 50,000-60,000 troops inducted at the LAC — mostly in eastern Ladakh — since last year.

Because of this, living conditions of soldiers would be comparatively better than last year, defence sources said.