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Generals in charge of China border head for Beijing — and Lhasa

In an effort to achieve some confidence building amid growing suspicion of a military build-up on the Sino-Indian border...

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi |
August 31, 2009 4:38:30 am

In an effort to achieve some confidence building amid growing suspicion of a military build-up on the Sino-Indian border,Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen V K Singh is leading a high-level military delegation to China on a weeklong “goodwill visit” that would include a rare stop in Lhasa. The Eastern Army Command is responsible for deployment in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

It is learnt that Commander of Leh-based 14 Corps Lt Gen S K Singh,who is responsible for forces facing the Chinese on the Ladakh border,is also part of the delegation along with a senior official from the Lucknow-based Central Command that oversees deployment along the Uttarakhand border.

While senior Indian military officials — the last being the Central Army Commander in 2006-07 — have visited China,this visit draws its significance from the fact that it includes all senior officials in-charge of Army deployment along the India-China border. The plan,sources said,had been in the works but dates could only be finalised now.

The delegation will not only meet senior officials from the PLA in Beijing but will also travel to Lhasa and the Chengdu province to meet some of their military counterparts. The visit comes at a time when there is increased suspicion among militaries on both sides,particularly in the Eastern Sector where China has suddenly become more active after staking claim to the Finger Area,the northernmost tip of Sikkim.

Just last week,sources said,junior military officials from the Chinese side wanted to cross into the area claiming that it was their territory. Indian troops blocked them,leading to a heated exchange of words with local commanders finally being able to resolve the issue through persuasion. Such incidents have become more routine than before.

The visit by the high-level military delegation is a move to ensure some confidence building at a time when Beijing has resented Indian moves to set up a division in Arunachal Pradesh. India has also converted the Tezpur air base to a Sukhoi base,revived airfields that had been defunct for a long time along the China border and even moved mechanized forces near the Finger Area. This build-up follows similar strengthening of Chinese ground forces in Chengdu and Tibet Autonomous Region.

The recently-concluded boundary talks between Special Representatives NSA M K Narayanan and Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo also did not make much headway on the boundary issue. While the two sides agreed to elevate the talks into a strategic dialogue,there was hardly any substantial movement on the boundary issue.

It is learnt that India suggested to jointly delineate the Line of Actual Control so that it becomes easier to address issues of misperception but the Chinese side continued to stress on picking up sector-by-sector for discussions while again emphasizing their claim on Arunachal Pradesh.

The whole idea behind the SR-level mechanism,sources said,was to move beyond the “sector approach” and address the issue from a political perspective — the subtext of the arrangement being to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement through minimum disturbance to settled population by way of bilateral political concessions across sectors. The Middle Sector,comprising Sikkim,was considered largely settled but Beijing provoked angry reactions in India after staking claim to Finger Area.

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