New Delhi, Sept. 19: Fifty years after the war, the militaries of India and China are setting new ring tones.
Eastern Command headquarters in Fort William, Calcutta, will have a dedicated telephone hotline with the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army headquarters in the Chengdu Military region, and the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur with its counterpart in the Lanzhou Military Region.
The hotlines are slated to become operational by the end of the year, a senior defence ministry official has told The Telegraph.
Chengdu and Lanzhou are two of seven Chinese PLA military regions and cover the entire border with India. On the Indian side, the Northern Command, Eastern Command and the Central Command share the responsibility for the frontier with China.
The proposal for telephone hotlines was conveyed by Beijing during the visit of the Chinese defence minister Liang Guanglie to New Delhi in the first week of this month.
Both sides acknowledge that despite the “peace and tranquillity” on the frontier, there is the likelihood of border patrols’ movements being misinterpreted and snowballing because the border is unsettled. The Indian and Chinese militaries are beefing up border defences, raising more troops and redeploying new units.
As recently as July, Indian and Chinese army patrols came face to face at Chumar in Ladakh. The army chief, Gen. Bikram Singh, said today that the Chinese “patrol up to their perception of the border and we up to ours”. The perceptions differ across the frontier.
At Chumar, the patrols held up banners and flags to signal to each other that they were transgressing the Line of Actual Control. There was no face-off as the patrols moved on.
There were more than 200 such transgressions in 2011. This year, the Indian army has listed 90 so far.
The Indian Army currently has a hotline only with Pakistan. The Directors Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan talk over a dedicated line every Tuesday and usually after incidents of firing on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir where a ceasefire has been holding since 2002.
But sector commanders of the Indian and Chinese armies do talk over the telephone and meet periodically at designated places along the border.
The Indian and Chinese militaries have agreed that the hotlines will be set up for the Northern and Eastern Army Commanders before establishing a mechanism at the headquarters-level between the Director General of Military Operations of India and the Chief of General Staff in Beijing.
India and China went to war in September-October of 1962. The Chinese army ran through defences in Arunachal, routing the Indian army before withdrawing unilaterally. China still claims all of Arunachal.
The trust that was lost in that war has never really been restored and even now, despite the overtly friendly gestures, no side loses an opportunity to militarily intimidate the other without really coming to blows.
“Nahi hoga (It will not happen),” the Indian Army chief said, asked if there could be a repeat of the 1962 war. “I am assuring the nation as chief of army staff that 1962 will not be repeated,” Gen. Singh said when he was reminded that 2012 is the 50th year of the only war that India had lost since Independence.
India today tested a 4,000km-plus range strategic Agni IV missile. India has developed the long-range missile to target cities in China from within its hinterland.
A defence ministry release said the missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead was fired from a road-mobile launcher at Wheeler’s Island off the Odisha coast. It splashed down at its designated target in the Indian Ocean in 20 minutes. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) claimed the test was successful.