India, China agree to set up army hotline
New Delhi: India and China have agreed to set up a telephone hotline between their armies at the level of director-general military operation (DGMO) and conduct regular joint patrolling to reduce escalating tension along the disputed Line of Actual Control, defence ministry sources said.
The armies of both the countries often accuse each other of transgression along the undefined international border. The 3,488km frontier with China passes through five states - Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
"Setting up a telephone hotline between the armies of the two countries has been a long-pending issue. It was taken up recently with China and both sides have agreed to it," said an Indian defence ministry official.
In the absence of such a hotline, the armies of India and China now contact each other through their respective foreign ministries, which is a long-drawn process, the official said.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at Wuhan where the two leaders asked the armies to build trust and a "better mechanism for maintaining peace and tranquillity at the frontier".
The two countries have for years been talking to sort out their boundary dispute but at the same time ramping up their border infrastructure, often leading to skirmishes.
"As part of a confidence-building exercise, troops of both countries have decided to hold regular co-ordinated patrolling and flag marches along the border to address the skirmishes and avoid unintended flare-ups," the official said.
"The hotline at the level of the DGMO will be similar to the one the Indian Army has with the Pakistan Army. China had earlier cited protocol following a restructuring of its army, which delayed the initiative," the official said.
In the recent past, Indian and Chinese troops have been eyeball-to-eyeball at several places, especially in the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors. Things got uglier last year when they kicked and punched each other and hurled stones on the banks of the Pangong lake in Ladakh during the Doklam stand-off.
According to protocol, Indian and Chinese troops hold up banners in English, saying "you have crossed the border, please go back", whenever either side notices transgression.
As many as 21 instances of breach of the border by Chinese People's Liberation Army troops had been reported in a fortnight from mid-March this year. Thirty such incidents had been registered last year between October and November after the Doklam stand-off. Recently, China protested against the Indian Army's alleged transgression into the Asaphila region along the border in Arunachal Pradesh but India rejected it.
India has three commands monitoring the China frontier - the eastern, headquartered at Fort William in Calcutta; the central, headquartered at Lucknow; and the northern, headquartered at Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir. China has two commands monitoring the border with India.