Indian security forces are bracing for a “hot” summer in the Himalayas along the Line of Actual Control with China this year. But unlike the Line of Control with Pakistan, where cross-border firing duels is the norm, it will be a battle of nerves in the shape of troop face-offs and transgressions without actual shots being fired on the China front.
The assessment by the Indian defence establishment is that at least half of the 23 “disputed and sensitive areas” identified on the 4,057-km LAC, stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, are “likely to witness renewed muscle-flexing” by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with winter ebbing away now.
The two countries continue to maintain high operational alertness on their borders, with additional units deployed in forward areas, despite troop disengagement from the 73-day face-off at Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction last year.
With Chinese troops having now permanently occupied the Bhutanese territory of north Doklam by constructing bunkers, hutments, roads and helipads to sustain their troops in the area, the number of PLA “transgressions” across the LAC into what India perceives to be its territory has also shown a significant jump. If 273 transgressions (military euphemism for incursions) were recorded in 2016, the number touched 426 last year.
“We are keeping a close watch on the Chinese activity. We are also conducting regular and special long-range patrols (LRPs) to the 18 mountain passes in the region to physically dominate the LAC,” said a senior officer of 2 Infantry Mountain Division, responsible for “maintaining the sanctity” of the 386-km stretch of the LAC in the rugged terrain of Dibang, Dau-Delai and Lohit Valleys in Arunachal Pradesh.