To the Brink and Back Again? Chinese Checkers in Arunachal Pradesh
NEW DELHI: Last week Indian officials claimed that Chinese PLA forces crossed into Arunachal Pradesh in four places. According to numerous reports, PLA troops spent a number of hours there before returning to the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC)
The Chinese have denied the accusation. At a press conference, a foreign ministry spokesperson said “border troops were conducting normal patrols on the Chinese side of the LAC. The China and India border has not yet been demarcated.”
China currently claims much of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet. Despite 19 border dispute conferences to date, India and China have so far failed to agree on demarcating the LAC.
Yesterday, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs and MP for Arunachal West told The Hindu that “The Chinese did not intrude into the Indian territory. There was no violence, no intrusion or transgression.”
According to Rijiju Chinese and Indian military officials met at the LAC, but remained on their respective sides.
Whether or not a transgression occurred, it is clear that relations between India and China have heated up in recent months. Earlier this year Chinese forces reportedly entered Ladakh. In Tibet the border force command was recently upgraded to fall under the centrally-controlled PLA. A move which will increase the potency and capacity of Chinese forces in the region.
On the Indian side, the Arunachal border region has become increasingly militarised with the expansion of airbases and strategic infrastructure projects along the LAC. Roads to facilitate military movement are a priority.
This latest dispute comes as India attempts to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a move strongly opposed by China.
The Arunachal-Tibet fault-line has become a theatre for India and China to play military games. In this disputed region, lines are blurred and border transgressions give the Asian superpowers the chance to sabre-rattle while maintaining relatively low stakes. Both sides can show their intent without risking much, as all transgressions can easily be denied, or claimed as accidental. While they may make for dramatic headlines, transgressions in the region are little more than symbols of national power played out in a faux battleground.