The Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) are for the first time coordinating patrolling of Fish-Tail II, one of the 13 disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, reports Hindustan Times.
This unprecedented initiative by India and China is aimed at building mutual confidence and maintaining peace along the LAC, a senior security official underscored, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to a second senior official, “coordinated patrolling” would mean the sides would inform one another about outgoing foot patrols, areas likely to be visited, and the duration of the patrols.
“One of the key takeaways of the 2018 Wuhan summit, which followed the 73-day-long standoff between the Chinese People’s Army and the Indian Army at Doklam, was to give strategic guidance to both armies to reduce border tensions. The coordinated patrolling is a step in that direction,” a senior ministry of defence official said.
The proposal to carry out “coordinated patrolling” was put forward by India at a high-level meeting between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in June in the run-up to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, on 11-12 October.
The military officials of the two sides met in Arunachal’s Kibuthu, one of the seven designated border personnel meeting points, with India represented by the commander of the Dinjang (Assam)-based 2 Mountain Division of the III Corps of the Indian Army.
The Line of Actual Control is a loosely-demarcated boundary between the two Asian giants stretching from Kashmir in the west to the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the east.
Fish Tail-I and II are among the most remote areas along the LAC, located in the easternmost corner of Arunachal Pradesh; Fish Tail -I 's largely glaciated terrain sees few patrols on either side.
Despite India’s poor road infrastructure in the region, it regularly sends patrols here, some of which take up to a month to reach their destination.
China sends sporadic patrols to the area.
“Given the terrain, connectivity and security implications, it’s basically a low hanging fruit where coordinated patrolling can be done. And it may be a good idea and place to experiment with coordinated patrolling and use it in other areas too,” the Hindustan Times quotes the security official as saying.
The Indian Army has not officially commented on the “coordinated patrolling” of Fish Tail-II, while underlining that borders have not been “demarcated,” leading to “differing perceptions” of it.
In response to the patrolling initiative, Retired Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General D. S.S. Hooda (retd), who was a participant in several India-China standoffs in the past, said:
“If handled maturely and with respect for each other’s security concerns; it is a good concept. The arrangement holds the promise to negate incidences witnessed at Pangong Tso Lake between the two armies.”
Earlier in September, India conducted major war games in the high altitude area of eastern Ladakh region, where Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in a skirmish on 11 September.
In that incident, Chinese troops objected to the presence of an Indian Army patrol on the northern bank of Pangong Tso Lake.
Since India’s abrogation of the quasi-autonomous special status of Kashmir, which resulted in Ladakh becoming a separate administrative territory of India, China has declared the entire province of Ladakh as disputed territory.
India and China share a nearly 4,000 km border, most of which is disputed, including Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls South Tibet.