On March 22, 2013, Chinese PLA’s Deputy Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen.Qi Jianguo heading an eight member delegation met Defence Minister AK Antony, Defence Secretary Shashi Kant and had talks agreeing “to finalise the plan of bilateral exchanges between the Armed Forces of India and China. It has been decided that exchanges will be conducted between the Armies, Navies and Air Forces on both sides. Both sides also discussed preparations for the 3rd Joint Army exercise, which is scheduled to be conducted in China this year.
It was agreed that the strengthening of exchanges between the Armed Forces should be carried out as a way of building mutual trust and confidence and consistent with the overall bilateral relationship between both countries. The implementation of measures to ensure continued ‘peace and tranquility’ along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was also discussed. These talks were a follow-up of the meeting between Defence Secretary and Gen Qi in Beijing in January 2013 Annual Defence Dialogue of which both are co-chairs.
On the night of April 15 a Chinese PLA platoon (36 in Indian Army and about 50 in PLA) came 10 km (upto19 kms as per some reports) inside the Indian territory in Burthe in Daulat Beg Oldi sector, at an altitude of about 17,000 feet, and established a tented post there. The first three flag meetings over the next 10 days or so failed to convince the Chinese.
While Mr. Antony’s statement to media -“We are taking every action to protect our interest… We will take every step to protect our interest”, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s statements about India not being a “pushover” and the incident being referred to as an “acne on a beautiful face”, or words to that effect, fetched wide criticism from media and analysts. Eventually it was a combination of rather late diplomatic decisiveness and the fourth and fifth flag meetings after which the impasse was broken.
While the Chinese have been very consistent in their sweet and sour policy, New Delhi must not forget that it was late Indira Gandhi’s decision to sanction use of artillery to fiercely retaliate against the Chinese at Nathu La, Sikkim in 1967, that sent the message that 1962 cannot be repeated. Since then, not a single bullet has been exchanged between the two armies and repeated Chinese incursions are settled (or not) only through negotiations.