By Jugal R Purohit
(as appeared on IndiaToday.in on February 1, 2013)
On January 14 the Indian delegation to China, led by the Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, were taken by surprise when the Chinese suggested formalising a troop behaviour pact which would govern aspects like night patrolling, limited hot pursuit and controlling of fire along the 4000km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Indian side responded by seeking a formal request from the Chinese. However, the nature of this request and its timing has raised many eyebrows in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Army Headquarters.
Recounting the meeting, a top official of the MoD, who was present in the meet mentioned, said, “They were very cordial and refrained from raising the usual set of complaints. In fact their senior officials even termed the 1962 War as being unfortunate. And then they came to this proposal. It did take us by surprise. It was not a part of the itinerary.”
Sources in the Army HQ said there is ‘trust deficit’ between the troops on the ground. And given that situation, it was not feasible to give up modes of surveillance and patrolling. “We need to be very cautious. Such sudden requests need to be treated with a lot of thought,” he added.
An officer, who had recently commanded a battalion along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, said, “It is the Chinese who dominate the heights. Most incursions have taken place from their end. So what exactly do they achieve by signing such an agreement with us?”
He also revealed that already there are several Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in place along the LAC in consonance with the 1993 Agreement t on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) signed during the tenure of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.
Former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat & noted China expert, Jayadeva Ranade termed it nothing more than a ‘ploy’ to appear as a peacefully rising superpower. “They are attracting unwanted attention for picking up fights with virtually every neighbour of theirs. At the same time they also realise that by being too aggressive with India, they will end up pushing us closer to the United States and its allies. Thus such agreements can help their image,” he added.