Incursion by the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) along the 3,488km Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China has reduced significantly in 2018 as compared to 2017, according to government officials familiar with the matter.
This development – attributed to the ‘Wuhan spirit’ — is expected to inject positivity into the forthcoming Special Representative talks and a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of East Asia Summit in Singapore this November, the officials say.
Incursion figures available with South Block – where the defence and foreign ministries are housed – show that there have been a total of 137 PLA incursions this year till September 20. This is nearly 20% less than 170 incursions recorded till the same date in 2017. These incursions are mainly attributed to the difference in perception over land boundaries between the two sides.
Officials credit the unprecedented informal summit between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan this April for the dip. They also point out that incursions in 2017 were high even in comparison to 2016, possibly a manifestation of the 73-day-long Doklam standoff between the Indian Army and China.
India and China continue to build on their relationship, which has warmed significantly since the chill of the Doklam face-off, which was resolved in August 2017 when the two sides agreed to withdraw troops from an area under Chinese control but claimed by Bhutan, and Beijing indicated that it had halted work on a road that triggered the row.
Experts say the India-China border has largely been peaceful and tranquil after Wuhan due to the strategic guidance provided by Modi and Xi to their respective commanders of militaries.
“The border management this year has been efficient with the two militaries resuming exchanges including meetings at the defence minister level. The two militaries are communicating with each other in a frank and candid manner and strategic communications among military commanders is also taking place,” said a senior official who asked not to be named.
The two sides are now working on setting up a hotline between the two defence ministers.
The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have noticed that a majority of incursions this year are in the western sector or eastern Ladakh in areas of Daulet Beg Oldi, Trig Heights, Depsang and Pangong Tso, an official said. Another aspect that has come to notice of Indian intelligence, the official added, is infrastructure buildup across the LAC – including barracks for PLA troops and underground tunnels for faster deployment of troops and material.
However, with snow already beginning to fall in the Himalayas, experts expect incursion to dip further.