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November 11, 1999
Army denies tension along Indo-China border
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Troop movements noticed along the Indo-China border in the last few days are routine pre-winter muscle flexing and "there is no matter of concern" while along the Line of Control with Pakistan localised actions are expected to increase before the snow-covered passes become inaccessible, authoritative Indian Army sources said.
Along the North-Eastern border with China troop movements had been noticed in the last couple of weeks and a lieutenant general in that region had claimed that the Indian Army has been put on a state of maximum alert. The defence ministry later denied any tension along the Indo-Chinese border.
Sources in the Army headquarters said there is definite information about troop movement along the Chinese side in the last few days "but it is very natural before winter sets in". These movements are routine and are meant to scare any attempts by interested parties to sneak in.
In winter once the opposite party acquires a position "it is impossible to vacate them". In 1986 the Chinese moved into a few square kilometres of territory near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The area, which used to be a virtual no-man's land is today under Chinese occupation.
Reliable sources said there is "no reason to worry" and that the troop strength has remained static for long along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian Army nevertheless is on high alert.
"We have observed Chinese activities increasing on their side of the border since June last for which our troops have been put on maximum alert," the General Officer Commanding of the 4 Corps, Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar, had reportedly said. The defence ministry was quick to deny this.
Shekatkar later said that since June the Chinese were engaged in the construction of a road across the border. Besides there have been some troop movements too.
The Chinese have for several years remained relatively silent along the border except for the1986 incident. A helipad is believed to be operational in that area.
During the Kargil conflict, Indian intelligence agencies had reported the presence of a large number of Chinese in civilian attire engaged in construction work in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Though they were not involved in the conflict or seen collaborating with the Pakistan army, the agencies were highly suspicious of their role because of the large number involved.
Meanwhile, army sources hinted that skirmishes along the LoC between India and Pakistan will go up before winter fully sets in. Localised actions are expected to increase and both sides will launch last-ditch attempts to capture each other's posts. "There is a new dimension too. After the army coup the local commanders are feeling more powerful and each one is trying to prove his mettle," a source said.
Reports from the LoC indicate that both Pakistan and India have stepped up shelling. Pakistani forces had on Tuesday attempted to capture the Faulad post in the Uri sector, but had to withdraw after losing 17 personnel. "In the coming days there would be similar attempts. For a couple of weeks the LoC will remain hot," sources said.
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