There is truism on the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan is that a minor incident which in military terms is known as tactical can assume strategic proportions in terms of impact in the public domain as well as in adding to fresh recriminations in a contested relation between adversaries. The Yangtze incident in Tawang sector has proved this is paradigm is now applicable to the India China border as well.
Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General RP Kalita on December 16 on the sidelines of a function related to the Vijay Diwas in Kolkata reassured that the situation is stable and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attempt to transgress the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Yangtse on December 9 was thwarted and the incident was not a major one.
“The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the Chinese PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts,” the General Officer added indicating that the injuries were not very serious and the situation was defused after local commanders on both sides held a flag meeting at Bum La on December 11.
The details by Kalita conform to the statement by the Defence Minister Mr Rajnath Singh in both Houses of Parliament on December 13, 2022.
Mr Rajnath Singh said, “On 09 December 2022, PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo. The Chinese attempt was contested by our troops in a firm and resolute manner. The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts. The scuffle led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides. I wish to share with this House that there are no fatalities or serious casualties on our side”.
Senior Colonel Long Shaohua, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has called Chinese border troops' routine patrol in Dongzhang area, “on December 9, the border troops assigned to the PLA Western Theater Command conducted a routine patrol on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Dongzhang area in Eastern Sector of the China-India border, and encountered obstruction from the Indian troops who illegally crossed the LAC,” as per China Military Online.
“The Chinese troops made professional, normative and resolute response, bringing on-site situation under control. Up to now, the Chinese and Indian troops have disengaged,” the Sr Col explained.
That the patrol was carried out at night and comprised of over 300 troops was unstated.
What is important is that over 300 PLA troops are reported to have made an attempt to seize the post at Yangtse at over 17,000 feet. While patrols are carried out of maximum upto a platoon strength of 20 to 30 personnel almost two to three companies strength appears to have attempted to seize the India post at night thus raising concerns that the attempts at transgression was far more serious than being portrayed by the Government and the Army.
LAC patrols are normally carried out during the day time as a confidence building measures and a surreptitious movement at night raises questions.
What is important is that over 300 PLA troops are reported to have made an attempt to seize the post at Yangtse at over 17,000 feet. While patrols are carried out of maximum upto a platoon strength of 20 to 30 personnel almost two to three companies strength appears to have attempted to seize the India post at night thus raising concerns that the attempts at transgression was far more serious than being portrayed by the Government and the Army
Explaining the reasons for the clash, Kalita said, “All along the northern border, there are areas of differing perception of LAC. In one of those areas (Yangtse), Chinese PLA troops transgressed (LAC) and this was contested firmly by our forces on the ground. It led to some amount of physical violence but it was contained at the local level.”
The issue was possibly seen as minor by the government and the army but has assumed major political overtones with the opposition taking up the same during the parliament session.
The possibility of such incidents assuming strategic proportions in relations between China and India which are tenuous at best was not appreciated by the government and thus the major blowback in parliament and public media space.
On the India China border referred to as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) just as on the Line of Control (LOC) even seemingly minor incidents can assume strategic proportions just as the Yangtse event has proved. While the government apparently is chary of revealing such incidents in the public domain where there are casualties the minor can become strategic.