While India and China have been able to partially reduce faceoff points, that is areas where the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are in eyeball to eyeball contact in Eastern Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from seven to two, clashes have been reported at Yangtze in Towang in the East on the McMahon Line even as some sources continue to report this as the LAC. The PLA end game appears to be to extend the points of confrontation and keep the issue of India China border alive at a time when the world is engaged in overcoming multiple crisis emanating from the War in Ukraine.
As per preliminary reports based on multiple media sources, the clash occurred as troops of the two sides attempted to control movement in an area that is disputed and where patrols were being carried out by both sides with mutual consent. On the other hand, another report indicates that the PLA sought to remove one of the Indian Army posts in this area. There are at least three areas of differing perceptions in the Towang sector where such clashes can well occur with Lhuntze being one of the them. In 1986-87 there was a major face off in the same sector in Sumdorung Chu which eased off after almost two years of dialogue. Today the situation is far more difficult to resolve especially after the clash has resulted in injuries and the issue has come to the limelight with parliament in session.
The possibility of a confrontation was likely as the Hindustan Times reported that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed additional four combined armed brigades (CAB) across the Eastern Sector as reserves a month before the 20th National Party Congress last month even as India and China are still to resolve the border issues arising out of May 2020 transgressions. PLA inducted four CABs from Eastern and Southern Theatre Command and deployed them across India’s Eastern Army Sector as per the Hindustan Times.
One brigade is deployed at Phari Dzong across the Siliguri Corridor or so-called chicken neck area, one at Tsona Dzong across Tawang sector, and two at Yanbaijan and Bayixincun near Nyingchi across the Walong sector in Arunachal Pradesh reported the Hindustan Times. These additional reinforcements had not been pulled back.
The pattern in Towang appears to replicate activities of the PLA in Eastern Ladakh of increase in the deployment of forces and then attempting to sustain claims in disputed areas. The stakes in Arunachal Pradesh however are possibly even higher as China has claimed the entire state while there the populated zone especially in Towang is larger than in Eastern Ladakh.
The end game appears to be to shift the focus on the East even as two point contestation – Depsang Plains and Demchok continues in Ladakh or the Western Sector of the India China border.
These confrontations come at a time when India is looking at leading the G 20 to reduction in inter state tensions and focusing on critical economic, energy, food security and development issues facing the world reeling from the War in Ukraine.
The Indian Armed Forces have been warned, there is a necessity for total focus on operational activities and delink from the ceremonial and even peripherals such as promoting tourism in the North East.