This Article is From Oct 02, 2019

Weeks After Exchanging Blows, Indian, Chinese Armies Celebrate At Nathu La Pass

Nathu La is a key border trading point between India and China.

Indian soldiers presented two songs in Mandarin, on which they had worked for several months

Highlights

  • Border Post Meetings when there has been tension in Ladakh region
  • Last month, there were skirmishes between Indian and Chinese soldiers
  • The situation was de-escalated after senior officers of both sides met
Nathu La Pass:

As China showcased its 70th national day celebrations with an extravagant show of military power in Beijing, senior Indian Army officers in key sectors along the disputed frontier between the two nations crossed over into China to join the celebrations.

The Border Post Meetings, a key confidence building measure between both sides, comes at a time when there has been tension in the Ladakh region.

Last month, there were skirmishes between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the North Bank of the Pangong Lake when soldiers clashed due to deferring interpretations of the Line of Actual Control. The situation was de-escalated after senior officers of both sides met. 

On Wednesday, at 10 am, at the Nathu La Pass in North Sikkim, officers of the People's Liberation Army came across the border to receive India's Nathula garrison commander, Brigadier KS Dhadwal.

Moments later, on the Chinese side, Brigadier Dhadwal and senior officers accompanying him were greeted by a Chinese Senior Colonel (equivalent to Brigadier) and taken to the Chinese Border Hut where for the next three hours, there were delegation-level talks between both sides followed by a 45-minute cultural programme. Indian soldiers presented two songs in Mandarin, on which they had worked for several months.  

Nathu La is a key border trading point between India and China. 60 lorries from either side cross the border Monday to Thursday under escort. So far this year, Indian traders have exported Rs 26.8 crores, considerably more than imports from the Chinese side which amounted to Rs 2.26 crore. Nathu La is also the route through which the Kailash Mansoravar yatra passes. A bi-weekly international mail service also operates through the pass when postal workers of either side hand over their respective parcels.

"These Border personnel meetings have emerged as effective forums for interaction among the border troops so that we can understand each other better," says Brigadier Dadhwal. "Better mutual understanding, mutual confidence and bonhomie among the troops" is key he says in ensuring that the Armies of both sides work towards a lasting friendship. 

What is far less evident in celebrations like these is the broader context of uncertainly between India and China on the decades old border dispute - both sides have differing interpretations of where the Line of Actual Control lies.  

Since the unprecedented Doklam standoff just 10 km away from here in 2017, India has strengthened its road network in the region massively, and reinforced its military presence in key locations throughout the region. The Indian Army is also set to hold the first ever mountain exercises of an Integrated Battle Group in Arunachal Pradesh later this month. This new military strike formation is key to the Army's future plans.  

On Wednesday, on China's 70th national day, these celebrations seem to be a clear indicator of how both sides seem intent to try and keep the peace, despite frequent and often tense differences along the 3,488 kilometre long frontier.