SUJAN DUTTA AND NISHIT DHOLABHAI
New Delhi, April 22: Indian and Chinese troops in a frontier sector in eastern Ladakh have been holding up banners for the past week, each asking the other to pull back from Daulat Beg Oldi, sources in the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have confirmed.
Defence minister A.K. Antony today said the Centre was taking “every step to protect its interests in Ladakh” after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) set up a tented camp 2km from an Indian post on April 15.
Foreign minister Salman Khurshid said: “We are still in touch and flag meetings are going on. There is more information to come. We will factor all that and take a final view.”
Last year, India and China set up a mechanism to mitigate border disputes because the two sides have different perceptions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Daulat Beg Oldi is a high-altitude plateau near the Karakoram pass where the Indian Air Force activated an advanced landing ground (ALG) in 2008 but its fixed-wing aircraft, the AN-32, can only land there in summer after the snow has melted and the ground is compacted.
The Indian Army and the ITBP maintains posts in Daulat Beg Oldi all year that are usually supplied with rations by paradrops from IAF aircraft. Helicopters also land there occasionally.
Government sources said they were viewing the “incursion” as an isolated and localised development.
“We are addressing this issue in an appropriate manner. We just do not want any departure from proportionality. I do not think we should allow this to get beyond the immediate area and we should retain it at that level,” Khurshid said.
Army chief Gen. Bikram Singh is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir tomorrow, where he will be briefed about the situation in Daulat Beg Oldi. The foreign ministry is expecting his feedback.
On April 15, a platoon of the Chinese PLA was reported by the Indian Army to have come 10km inside the Daulat Beg Oldi sector near Burthe, over 16,500ft high.
A frontier security agency source said while the Indian and Chinese camps were 2km apart, their soldiers were just a “few hundred metres” from one another. He said a flag meeting was held last week but subsequent meetings had been called. Neither side has withdrawn.