The standoff between India and China continued at the Dolam or Doklam plateau for the 21st day, with troops of the two armies arrayed against each other at a “civil distance”, awaiting a diplomatic resolution of the dispute, official sources told The Indian Express.
Sources said that the dispute remains “localised”, with no movement of Chinese troops detected in any other disputed sector on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.
They added that around 100 Indian soldiers are deployed in the disputed area, and have pitched tents there. They remain at a distance of around 120 metres from the Chinese soldiers, who have also pitched tents in the area, they said. There has been no confrontation between the two sides or any attempt by the Chinese to resume road construction in the past two weeks, said sources.
The standoff site is at an altitude of about 10,000 feet, and Indian soldiers can continue to stay there for a prolonged period. But there have been no specific orders to this effect, as any further action would be based on diplomatic engagement between India and China.
On June 16, Indian soldiers had moved into the plateau, an area disputed between China and Bhutan and which abuts the Indian border in east Sikkim, to prevent a road being constructed by the Chinese to eventually reach Jampheri Ridge, which India and Bhutan consider to be in Bhutan.
The Chinese claim Gymochen, which falls on Jampheri Ridge, to be the tri-junction of the border between India, Bhutan and China. India considers Batang La to be the tri-junction, around 6.5 km north of Gymochen. The Chinese road construction was happening on Dolam plateau, which lies between the Sinchela that has the Batang La pass, and Jampheri ridges.
Chinese connectivity to Jampheri has serious security ramifications for India, as this part of the Chicken Neck — the smallest portion of Siliguri Corridor which connects the Northeast to the rest of India — will be only 22 km wide.
“Access to Jampheri would render Indian defences in East Sikkim ineffective, and even a single Chinese OP (observation post) on the range will give Chinese domination of our area. That access should not be allowed,” said a source.
Sources confirmed that Chinese military patrols on foot have been coming up to Jampheri ridge and Amo Chu river, north of the ridge, historically.
In 2007, there had been tension in the region when the Chinese destroyed some Indian bunkers in the Doka La area. There were similar incidents later but this is the first time the Chinese have constructed a road, which had reached a position called the Turning Point, short of Jampheri Ridge.
Two of the most prominent areas on the LAC, where the Indian and Chinese perceptions differ, are Fishtail-1 and Fishtail-2 in Arunachal Pradesh, where there has been no movement of Chinese patrols. Situation reports from other areas on the India-China border have also not indicated any movement of Chinese troops across the LAC, sources said.
There has also been no change in deployment of three Indian Army divisions in the region. Only two of the 10 brigades — 63 and 112 mountain brigades — are deployed in the forward areas. The rest of the brigades — of Gangtok-based 17 Division, Kalimpong-based 27 Division and Binaguri-based 20 Division — continue to remain at their usual locations.