China has set up a ropeway near the Torsa Nala on its side of the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction, and is strengthening roads and other infrastructure along the entire eastern sector, according to defence sources.
In the Yangtse area of Tawang sector, which saw a scuffle last week, defence officials with knowledge of the area said that China had stepped up patrols some years ago to assert its claims in the area, after finding that their grazers could not move in and out. “What irks the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is that the Indian Army holds the dominating heights which give a complete view of the bowl,” noted two of the sources.
The Chinese usually patrol two to three times a year, before and after winter, one of the sources said, adding that there are four major ingress points in the Yangtse area which the PLA uses to enter the region. Yangtse is located 30-35 km northeast of Tawang and is at an altitude of around 17,000 feet.
The PLA has installed a ropeway close to the Torsa Nala on their side near the confluence point, and some new anchor points of the ropeway have been recently observed, said one of the sources cited above. Officials said that there is also lot of activity near the Torsa Nala near Doklam, a location that saw a 73-day standoff between Indian and Chinese forces a few years ago.
Citing intelligence inputs, sources said that there has been hectic activity and construction along the eastern sector, especially in the last few months. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is divided into the western (Ladakh), middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), and eastern (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim) sectors.
India has also been significantly upgrading its infrastructure along the LAC in the last few years, with further ramping-up post the 2020 standoff in Galwan in eastern Ladakh.
No activity ‘in Doklam’
However, responding to reports of fresh PLA activity at Doklam, Bhutanese officials said that there was no such activity “in Doklam”, drawing a distinction between the actual tri-junction that was the flashpoint for the India-China standoff in 2017, and the wider area.
“The information about Chinese activities in Doklam is not correct,” said Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, General Vetsop Namgyal (Retd), who added that he had checked with the Royal Bhutan Army, and they had confirmed that “there are no Chinese activities in Doklam.”
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In 2021, China and Bhutan reached an agreement on a 3-step roadmap to resolve their boundary issues, including the Doklam area, after 24 rounds of negotiations that began in 1984.
The Army’s December 12 statement giving details of the scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops on December 9 noted that, in certain areas along the LAC in the Tawang sector, there are areas of differing perception, where both sides patrol the area upto their claim lines. This “has been the trend since 2006,” it said.
India and China have mutually agreed disputed areas and areas of differing perception along the 3,488 km-ong LAC. For instance in eastern Ladakh, there are two mutually agreed disputed areas, Trig Heights and Demchok, while there are 10 areas of differing perception. Similarly, Yangtse is one of the eight major friction points in the eastern sector.