Boundary dispute, new mechanism, more BMPs, hotline on agenda

Northe-rn Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda will set off on six days visit to China from tomorrow as a head of eight member high level military delegation with solution to long pending boundary dispute, peace along Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, tackling issues of LAC at local level of Field Commanders, increase in Border Meeting Points (BMPs) and setting up of hotline between Northern Army Command and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Headquarters as major issues on the table during his meeting with PLA chief Gen Fang Fenghui and other senior Commanders of Chinese Army.
“China is likely to seek the Indian Army’s help in tackling terrorism, which it had, of late, started facing in Xinjiang province, which has been clubbed as a sector by China opposite its area with Ladakh,’’ official sources told the Excelsior.
The high level eight members Indian Army delegation led by Lt Gen Hooda include one official of the rank of Major General, two Brigadiers and four Colonels, all drawn from the Northern Army Command, headquartered at Udhampur.
Sources disclosed that the visit of the Northern Command Army delegation to China and the agenda to be discussed by the two sides (Indian Army and PLA officials) was finalized when a Major General level official had undertaken a secret visit to China in August this year and met the PLA officials there.
Sources said during the China visit from December 14 to 19, the Indian Army delegation will meet their top PLA counterparts including PLA chief Gen Fang Fenghui, other top officers, defence experts and officials of the Defence Ministry apart from visiting PLA Headquarters at Beijing and Lanzhou military station.
Asserting that finding ways and means to long pending boundary dispute between India and China would figure during the talks between Army officials of the two countries, sources said a broad agreement was on cards between the two Armies that pending final settlement to the boundary dispute, the two sides would develop mechanism to sort out issues of small nature arising out of un-demarcated boundary on spot between the Field Commanders to ensure that the issues didn’t flare up.
For the purpose, the two sides could discuss setting up of hotline contact between Northern Army Commander and PLA official manning the Command opposite Ladakh sector to resolve the dispute, which is not settled at the level of local Commanders in Ladakh.
In addition to this, the two sides would also discuss opening of more Border Meeting Points (BMPs) in Ladakh sector. A new BMP was opened this year in Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector taking total number of BMPs in Leh to two. The previous meeting point was Chushul.
Barring two (one each in 2014 and 2015), no major incursions have been reported from the PLA in Leh sector during the past two years. Both the incursions were resolved at local level within few days. Indian troops this year had gone aggressive and demolished surveillance camera installed by the PLA on Indian side of the LAC.
Admitting that most of the disputes between Indian Army and PLA arose due to result of un-demarcated boundary between the two sides, sources pointed out that the talks between military officials of India and China would focus on working out a mechanism to ensure peace and tranquility on the LAC and resolve disputes, if any, on spot between the local Army Commanders.
Enhancing military ties between the two neighbours was also high on the agenda. In October this year, India and China had held joint military exercises `Hand In Hand’ for 12 days from October 12 at Kunming Military Academy in Yunnan province with emphasis on joint handling of counter terrorism and ‘Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief’.
Sources said the PLA was likely to take advantage of Northern Command delegation to China to ascertain ways and means to tackle terrorism, which, of late, has started raising its head in Xinjiang province of China.
India and China share estimated 4056 kilometers LAC in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. An estimated 646 kilometers LAC falls in Ladakh sector alone running into most treacherous hilly and mountain areas.
The Northern Army Command delegation visit to China has assumed very high significance in both the countries as it was being seen as a major policy shift of China towards India. China had in 2010 denied permission to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal to visit China on the ground that he was posted in “disputed territory’’, a reference to Jammu and Kashmir. China had also given stapled visa to some residents of Jammu and Kashmir. However, it had stopped the practice of stapled visa and was now giving regular visa to J&K citizens like people of other parts of India.
Sources said with the visit of Northern Army Commander to China for six days, China has cleared the perception that Jammu and Kashmir was not a disputed territory, a stand clearly different from Pakistan.

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