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Chinese intrusion in Tawang Sector: An observation

Courtesy: @Defencecore

Yangtse is a highly dominating feature looking into the Nagdoh bowl. The Nagdoh bowl is the fulcrum of all Chinese deployment, opposite Tawang. It is a permanent location of the PLA battalion and border defence battalion.

By Lt General LN Singh (Vetran)

The Chinese intrusion stand alone incident at Yangtse in Tawang has baffled the nation. My understanding of the Yangtze goes back to 1999-2000. I was posted there. A major Chinese intrusion took place in Yangtse during operation VIJAY.

In those days, there was nothing very much in Yangtse, though it was being patrolled off and on and there was no structure or anything. But during the period of operation VIJAY, the Chinese sent some troops to pitch their tents in Yangtse. It appeared, at that time, that the Chinese aim was to tie us down in the Eastern Sector and prevent the movement of troops from East to West.

We reacted swiftly and also pitched a few tents. It was a long nerve breaking standoff. Eventually, as the operation VIJAY ended, the Chinese possibly felt the time has come for disengagement and eventually went back to Nagdoh. Yangtse has remained with us. We not only increased our strength in Yangtse but also the command & control set up for quick and timely response in case of any Chinese misadventure, besides increasing our fighting capability and capacity.

Yangtse is a highly dominating feature looking into the Nagdoh bowl. The Nagdoh bowl is the fulcrum of all Chinese deployment, opposite Tawang. It is a permanent location of the PLA battalion and border defence battalion. The Chinese are not very happy that Yangtse has been occupied by us. Just north of Nagdoh bowl is a place known as Tsona Zong. Beyond which, is located Kitchen Tso and Kitchen La. Tsona Zong is supposed to be regimental headquarter of the PLA. A PLA regiment is something akin to a brigade of our army.

Just South of Nagdoh bowl is the Bumla Pass. At Bumla, border meetings with the Chinese are organised. So, in the North of Bumla Pass is where Chinese forces are there and in the South is India. Yangtse is in the East of Bumla with an excellent view of the Chinese-held Nagdoh bowl. So, no PLA commander would like Yangtse to be occupied by the Indian army. The Chinese, on numerous occasions, have tried to evict us from Yangtse. Thus we have made sure that a reasonable senior officer with adequate troops is present in Yangtse at all times. And we have made up Sanger, Stone Walls, fences and others, which the Chinese try to remove from time to time.

To the west of Yangtse, the Mago Tsu flows. Mago Tsu was one of the routes followed by the Chinese in 1962. My acquaintance with the Chinese was as early as 1990. I was one of the very few Indian Army officers who were qualified in digital satellite imagery interpretation. Today satellite imagery is one of the major sources of tactical intelligence. But in those days we used satellite imagery mostly for terrain
intelligence because of poor resolution. The best we had those days was SPOT, a French one, which gave us a 10 meters resolution in monochromatic.

In panchromatic it was 20 meters. So even in those days, as a young major, I was interpreting the Chinese activities right all over Arunachal, from Tatu Camp, which is in the north-eastern portion of Arunachal in the Debang Valley and the west side up to the Nagdoh bowl. That is, how I began my acquaintance with Nagdoh and other Chinese-held areas opposite Arunachal. Further, I was in Bhutan for three years. Again, there too the Chinese continued to draw my attention. The Chinese would every year come and set up camps called ‘Chinese Intrusion Camps’. These camps are occupied by the Chinese to claim an area, and they initially would send some shepherds/cowherds, which we call ‘Goths’, consisting of about 100 to 200 animals with maybe ten odd grazers. And this is followed by a section or a platoon of Chinese troops. They stay there during the campaigning season.

Focusing on Yangtse, its importance lies in the fact that we can get a very good view of what is going on in Nagdoh bawl. And Nagdoh bowl, as brought out above, is the fulcrum of the Chinese activities in the area opposite Tawang. Now the question is why the Chinese come at this time of the year. The winter has started. The snows are already there, and we are well-stocked.

What would the Chinese do? What will they achieve? Except getting some major headlines. It’s like banging their head against a wall. And they are also aware that a colossal amount of force will be required for coming down towards Tawang. And Nagdoh bowl has got no deployment space for a very large force. It is a very small valley. That is why we don’t call it a valley. We call it a bowl. Tactically, what is he going to achieve? For years the Chinese have been trying to evict us from Yangtse. And is aware that the Indian Army is not going to let him succeed.

If they had come somewhere near the Sumdrong area or something place where they are on high ground, we could have said that they aim to capture territory. Here, in Yangtse, we are on high ground. They have to climb up. I remember those days the Chinese patrol would come to the base of the Yangtse feature in the evening. The next day early in the morning they would try to come to Yangtse. But we will refrain from them and they would go back. Sometimes there is a physical contest. But this time the number of Chinese appears to be more, much more.
Remember when we talk about the PLA battalion, we ought to remember that the PLA battalion is smaller as they have got only three companies. On the other hand, our army has four companies of an infantry battalion.

So, coming down to why have the Chinese come at this time of the year? We had an exercise with the US named ‘Yudh Abhyas”. The Chinese could be sending a tacit message to us on their disapproval of the exercise as they are aware that India is now co-opted in the US strategy of countering the Chinese expansion. We ought also to remember the cyber attack launched by the Chinese on our AIIMS coupled with the network interruption which we experienced in Mumbai airport some days back. It will thus be naive on our part to think that this is only about territories.

The Chinese detest the growing Indian strength and the ever-increasing stature of our prime minister. They are aware that our opposition will clamour for the Prime Minister and the Government when anything happens at the border. Considering the winter session of the Parliament, they possibly timed it in such a way, by making the opposition believe that the Chinese are after territory, disrupting the
functioning of the government. I am afraid that they may not be looking just for territory but disrupts the functioning of our system and growth.

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