India has rejected China’s proposal for having a bilateral arrangement to notify each other in advance before sending troops on patrol along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The proposal for setting up a bilateral institutional mechanism was woven into the draft text of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) that China recently gave to India. New Delhi and Beijing are currently negotiating the proposed agreement, although it is not clear whether it would be ready for signing before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden visit to India commencing next Sunday.
Indian Army was against disclosing the patrol timings to the Chinese, which would rob off the crucial surprise element in border patrolling. “It’s our territory. We can patrol it whenever we want,” an army officer told Deccan Herald.
China proposed to set up a formal mechanism for more regular “friendly contacts” between the personnel guarding the LAC. The underlying objective is to institutionalise the practices the troops follow while patrolling the 4,057 km line of actual control.
New Delhi, however, was cagey about the proposed deal, because certain clauses of the draft text, if accepted, would require the local units of the army and paramilitary force of one country to inform their counterparts on the other side before sending troops on patrol. The proposed BDCA seeks to consolidate the arrangements New Delhi and Beijing agreed in 1993 and 1996 deals as well as the 2005 protocol for Confidence Building Measures between the armies of the two countries along the LAC.
Negotiation on the agreement has taken the centre stage in the wake of the face-to-face situation in Depsang Bulge along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
After both sides withdrew troops, New Delhi is “carefully considering” the draft text of the proposed agreement. Sources said India had not committed itself to signing the pact with China as a precondition for the withdrawal of Chinese troops.
New Delhi may insist on modifying the text of the draft agreement to accommodate concerns of the Indian Army and paramilitary forces guarding the LAC. Meanwhile, local army commanders from either side of the border met at the customary border personnel meeting at Nathu La (Sikkim) on Wednesday. A brigadier rank officer from the Indian Army and a Senior Colonel from the People's Liberation Army, headed the respective delegation.
This is the second BPM between the two sides after the first one at Chusul (Ladakh) on May 1.
A third BPM will be held in Bum La (Arunachal Pradesh) on May 30, which will be followed by two more BPM in September and October. The frequency and venue of these BPMs are pre-decided.
India insisted on early settlement of border dispute to fulfil its “strategic objective”, to advance the basic interests of both nations. Exchange of maps delineating the respective perception of the LAC could be one of the forward movement, though there is no clarification on what would be the approach to such exchange.
India and China exchanged maps of the central sector of the LAC more than 10 years ago, but the western and eastern sectors remain contentious.