The new border agreement with China is bringing about subtle changes in the way things function on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but the one incident that had the Indian side completely stumped was when a Chinese commanding officer brought his wife along to a border meet.
The new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, which was signed last October, institutionalises flag meetings at the level of unit commanding officers. As a result, sources said, a different sort of interaction has begun where relatively younger officers on both sides are getting to know each other.
The pattern so far has been friendly, yet quite officious, with commanders on both sides indulging in social bonhomie only on occasions. This incident of a Chinese commanding officer bringing his wife along to a recent meeting in Spangur area of Ladakh, however, reflected a new attitude of casualness that the Chinese side probably wants to bring to these interactions.
At the same time, transgressions continue to take place along the LAC with the Chinese side keeping a keen watch on India’s efforts to strengthen road infrastructure and improve access in key areas of the western sector.
Just recently, a cluster of some oval-shaped surveillance equipment was sighted across the sensitive Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector in Ladakh and along areas bordering Arunachal Pradesh, raising eyebrows in the security establishment. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken up the matter with the Defence and External Affairs ministries.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the Chinese border over the next few weeks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday to establish political contact with the new BJP-led government.
Officials said the new surveillance equipment is roughly egg-shaped, with a height of 4.6 metres and diametre of 2.6 metres. The equipment is unlike any past devices observed by the Indian side on the border. India too deploys several sensors and electronic monitoring devices to keep an eye on Chinese troop movements.
A senior security official said it is suspected that the Chinese are monitoring the movement of Indian troops patrolling the border areas more precisely with the help of this equipment. “Whenever our troops go for patrolling near the perceived boundary, the Chinese seem to have prior information and they are at the site before we even reach there. We believe they are monitoring our movements better through this advanced equipment,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
However, the matter has not been officially raised by the Indian side at the various flag meetings, as the equipment is located well within Chinese territory. “The number of these devices have multiplied in the past few months,” said a senior official.