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Nathu La pass closure: Is China sending out a strong signal?

Hitting a speed breaker: Sources in the security establishment said the turning away of the pilgrims should be seen as a diplomatic signal.

Hitting a speed breaker: Sources in the security establishment said the turning away of the pilgrims should be seen as a diplomatic signal.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A day after China accused the Indian Army of violating the border, Indian military authorities were tight-lipped about the claims.

Despite the official silence, most sources within and outside the military warned that the latest developments, especially the Chinese move to close the Nathula Pass route to Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims, should be treated as a diplomatic message from Beijing.

“While the past trends have shown these kinds of incidents are initiated by the Chinese during high profile bilateral visits, I don’t think we should read too much into the timing of the incident with respect to the Prime Minister’s visit to the U.S.,” former Army chief General Bikram Singh told The Hindu.

 

‘This is a regular feature’

Gen. Singh said there was no reason to be unduly worried about the incursions.

“This is a regular feature. Our patrols also go into Chinese-held areas and they come in due to differing perceptions on the LAC [Line of Actual Control] and International Border. There are robust mechanisms in place to defuse such situations and ensure they don’t go out control.”

However, several sources in the security establishment said the turning away of the pilgrims was a diplomatic signal that should not be ignored.

According to military sources, soldiers of both sides are in a stand-off along the Sikkim border for the past few days.

The sources insist that Chinese soldiers entered the Indian territory and destroyed two bunkers in Doka La region, on the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet.

The two sides engaged in some scuffle, and also formed human walls to prevent each other from moving further ahead, the sources said.

A retired Lt. General, who had commanded a corps in the area, said, “Sikkim is a settled boundary, barring the finger area in the plateau which came up during 2007.”

Jayadeva Ranade, president, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, told The Hindu that the development was significant. “I would say that because of the prolonged face-off, and the kind of articles appearing in the Chinese media. Global Times has put out at least three strong pieces on this. It all happens at a time when the relations are already under strain and also during the Prime Minister’s visit to the U.S. This is one warning shot.”

Mr. Ranade said the location where it has happened is also significant. “They have been trying to build a road there. For us it is strategically important. It is just 30 km from the Siliguri corridor or the Chicken’s Neck,” he pointed out. “It is a combination of strategic, sovereignty and territorial issues bundled into one.”

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 9:43:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/china-sends-a-strong-message/article19155859.ece

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