KOLKATA/GANGTOK: A few weeks before the first ever India-China military exercises, the real war games have begun. On November 8, Chinese forces demolished some unmanned Indian forward posts near two Army bunkers against which Beijing had raised objections since July.
“The Chinese came, destroyed the posts and went back,” said an Army officer. The incident is learned to have taken place around November 8.
The revelation came on the day a 12-member People’s Liberation Army delegation landed in Kolkata on a recce for the military exercises to be held next month in China.
The destroyed posts were near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet border tri-junction. Intelligence sources in Gangtok on Friday said that a “third bunker” located near the two disputed ones had been destroyed by the Chinese. But, Army sources attached to formations overseeing the location said the structures were fibre glass huts, which are manned by a few soldiers when winter sets in.
Senior Army officers in Kolkata were tightlipped about the incident, particularly because the Chinese army delegation led by a senior colonel is in the city. “I have nothing to comment,” said a defence spokesman.
The two disputed bunkers at Doka La, near Torsa Nala, had been set up about two years ago. The Chinese first objected to them in July, after which a series of border personnel meetings took place till September. Beijing wanted the bunkers to be shifted but the Indian Army stood its ground and continued to man and arm the bunkers.
The Chinese were left smarting. It is believed the attack on the unmanned posts earlier this month were carried out by the PLA “to show their strength”.
Indian officials feel if the Chinese had any objection against these bunkers they should have lodged a protest soon after they were established, or at least within a year.
Border disputes between China and India are nothing new, because China does not recognise the border and even triggered a war over it. Even the Line of Actual Control is difficult to demarcate at places because of the mountainous terrain. Two decades ago, in 1986, the two countries had come perilously close to a skirmish in the Sumdorong Chu valley.
In view of the latest dispute, the visit of Defence Minister A K Anthony and chief of Army staff Deepak Kapoor to Sikkim and north Bengal during the weekend is being considered significant. They will land in Siliguri on Saturday and visit the border at Nathu La on Sunday.
However, military observers believe confidence-building measures like joint war exercises will prove instrumental in easing border tensions.