Chinese Army enters disputed stretch along border in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli

Not so unusual movement, says ITBP
Report by: 
Agencies
NEW DELHI
31 Jul 2017

Amid the military stand-off in Doklam, the Chinese troops recently entered a disputed stretch along the international border with India.

The alleged incursion took place on July 25 at Barahoti in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand. The transgression took place on the morning of July 25 when a group of shepherds was asked to vacate the land by troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), officials in the know said on the condition of anonymity. The incident comes in the backdrop of a prolonged standoff between Chinese and Indian troops at Dokalam near Sikkim. Barahoti, an 80 sq km sloping pasture about 140 km from the Uttarakhand capital Dehradun, is one of three border posts in what is known the 'middle sector', comprising Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

It is a demilitarised zone where Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans are not allowed to take their weapons, officials said. In 1958, India and China listed Barahoti as a disputed area where neither side would send their troops. In the 1962 war, the PLA did not enter the middle sector and focused on the western (Ladakh) and eastern (Arunachal Pradesh) sectors.
After the war, ITBP jawans would patrol the area with weapons in a non-combative manner -- with the barrel of the gun facing down. During negotiations on resolving the border dispute, the Indian side unilaterally agreed in June 2000 that ITBP troops would not carry arms in three posts, Barahoti and Kauril and Shipki in Himachal Pradesh. ITBP men go patrolling in civil dress and the Barahoti pasture sees Indian shepherds from border villages tending their sheep and people from Tibet bringing their yaks for grazing.

On July 19 also, the Chinese troops had violated the border in Chamoli district and were seen camping along with arms. Reports said that People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops had sent back a team led by Chamoli District Magistrate and others, including officials from ITBP, who had gone for a survey of Barahoti ground. The Chinese troops had claimed that it was their land. In another incident, a helicopter of PLA violated the Indian air space in Uttarakhand on July 19. After hovering over the Indian airspace for nearly five minutes, the helicopter disappeared and flew back to the Chinese airspace. India and China are currently at loggerheads over Doklam plateau in Bhutan.

The military tension over the Himalayan tri-junction between the two countries that share a 3,500-km boundary started in June when Indian troops stopped Chinese soldiers from building a road at the stretch where India and China connect with Bhutan. The stand-off has hit India-China ties with Chinese experts threatening a war if New Delhi did not buckle. Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran had on last Thursday called the month-long military stand-off between India and China at Doklam part of a mind game. He added that there was a possibility of a prolonged impasse. Confirming the report, Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat had on July 27 termed the development as "something to worry about" hoping that Centre will pay heed to his request for increased vigil. Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said ITBP had been asked to look into the matter.

"Soldiers of the Chinese Army come into our area and leave after staying there for a while. It has been happening for decades. Though we can't call it routine it is not so unusual movement either," said a senior ITBP official on the condition of anonymity. It is a "demilitarised zone" where Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans are not allowed to take their weapons, officials said.