Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation on Border Affairs to maintain peace on LAC

“India and China will soon have a mechanism to take care of intrusions into each other's territory,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here on Tuesday.

“Of late, we have taken a step to constitute a mechanism to tackle these issues in the border. I am hopeful that with this mechanism, which will come up in a few months, things will improve,” the Minister told newspersons after inaugurating the Coast Guard annual conference.

The proposed mechanism will comprise all stakeholders, including the military and paramilitary forces, and will be coordinating with the External Affairs Ministry. The Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police would be part of this mechanism.

The Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation on Border Affairs would be the latest building block to maintain tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that serves as the boundary between the two nations. It was among a slew of measures — resuming senior-level defence exchanges, initiating a high-level economic dialogue and stepping up of high-level contacts — agreed upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao when they met in Sanya on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in March this year.

Overall situation ‘peaceful'

The Minister termed the overall situation along the LAC “peaceful” and attributed the reports of “incursions” to differences in perception of boundary due to lack of proper demarcation.

“The main thing is that in the absence of a demarcated border, there is a difference of perception. Sometimes incursions take place when they go to areas which they think is with them and sometimes we also do that,” he explained.

Asked about the Chinese observation on India accepting a Vietnamese franchise to prospect for oil in South China Sea, the Defence Minister said: “South China Sea is not our worry. Our worry is to guard our own backyard and our core area is our neighbouring island nations. We are more concerned about areas around us and we are not the main players in the South China Sea.”

Both countries are satisfied with the LAC situation, which has been generally quiet due to adherence to agreements on keeping heavy military equipment away from the border and prohibiting military exercises in the vicinity.

But these and the diplomatic presence in each other's national capital have failed to resolve the annoyance of patrols transgressing into each other's pockets. Recognising the importance of removing this irritant which frequently claims headlines in India, the Cabinet Committee on Security vetted and cleared the negotiating brief.

Officials explained that when a patrol came face to face with another on a piece of territory claimed by both sides, the issue gets resolved by Border Commanders. But there was no solution to “trends” that appeared in certain pockets of the LAC. Such trends of frequent patrols into a disputed area increased the possibility of confrontation as also of the situation taking a turn for the worse.

The mechanism with broad-based representation from various wings of the government is expected to examine such trends and suggest corrective measures.

Head-start by China

Mr. Antony admitted that China has had a head-start in building up its military capabilities along the border and India was relatively negligent. But instead of “grumbling” over the issue, India too has begun modernising its capabilities by raising specialised Army divisions and reopening or preparing Advanced Landing Grounds for aircraft operations.

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