Chumar deadlock nears resolution

China will stop road laying activities, India has to close surveillance post

Chumar deadlock nears resolution

The two-week long stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Chumar, in south east Ladakh, appeared to be near resolution with both sides agreeing to restore status quo near the Line of Actual Control.

At yet another flag meeting between the two armies on Thursday, the two sides are learnt to have agreed to return to the pre-September 10 position. This means that China will not continue with its road-building activities in the contentious area while India will have to close its surveillance post in that area.

There is, however, no official word on the outcome of the flag meeting or on the existence of any such surveillance post. Officials only admitted that a flag meeting had taken place at Chushul which ended on a “positive note”.

The two armies had a series of flag meetings in the last two weeks, but all were inconclusive.

The resolution formula is a reminder of last year's Depsang Bulge incursion incident when Chinese troops came 19 km inside Indian territory, pitched tents and stayed for three weeks. They withdrew only after India dismantled a tin shade in Chumar, which is believed to house sensitive surveillance equipment.

While the Indian Army never acknowledged the existence of any “surveillance post”in Chumar, a retired Ladakahi diplomat had claimed that such a post was at the core of the current controversy.

“The hut has become the bone of contention. The Chinese have drawn a red line. They want it demolished before they withdraw,” former Ambassador Phunchok Stobdan, currently a fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, Delhi, said in an interview.

The Indian Army steadfastly maintained it had blocked China's attempt to extend a road into what is perceived to be Indian territory. India occupies a high altitude post named 30R in Chumar at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet and enjoys a strategic advantage.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up the issue with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited New Delhi last week. Diplomats from both countries were working overtime to resolve the issue.

Beijing’s new envoy to New Delhi, Le Yucheng, had a meeting with senior officials of the ministry of external affairs on Wednesday. After the meeting, he said the current stand-off along the LAC would be resolved soon.

There was no controversy in the areas around Chumar till 2006-07 when incidents of Chinese transgressions began to surface.

As the 3,488 km LAC is not marked and perceptions about the border vary, both sides patrol the disputed areas claimed by the others. Indian patrolling teams from the Army and ITBP follow a “Line of Patrol”, which was drawn by the government's China Study Group almost 30 years ago. “There is a need to revisit the Line of Patrol now,” says an Army officer.

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