Former MP from Leh Shri Thupstan Chhewang feels that the UPA government is repeatedly misguiding the nation on Chinese incursion issue. Talking to Organiser correspondent Pramod Kumar over telephone from Leh he said UPA’s soft approach demoralised not only the local people in Leh, but also the security forces deployed on the border. He said after the withdrawal by PLA troops from the incursion site, there is no Indian army personnel to safeguard the border and the PLA troops can return any time, as happened in the past. “There is a dire need to take up road construction activity in border areas and the region should be opened for foreign and domestic tourists,” he said adding that until India adopts a tit for tat policy, such incursions will continue. Excerpts:
How do the local people react on this incursion and what do they expect from the Government of India (GoI) on this issue?
The local people have taken it very seriously. They want the Government to act aggressively. On previous occasions also our governments almost gave up to the Chinese authorities. People are very concerned about it. It has affected the morale of the people in the border areas. They are losing their grazing areas inch by inch. At one time their morale was very high, but now they are losing faith in the security system as well as the government policies.
Earlier the local people had access to vast pasture land in border areas, which helped India to know the ground reality. What is the actual situation now?
The people here depend upon the pasture land only for their livelihood. But it is decreasing day-by-day. The patrolling or the illegal occupation of Chinese troops is increasing. Now they object to our people inside our land too. Our movement has been restricted near the LAC. More serious is the fact that local people do not get support of the Indian security forces. They want to claim their previous pasture land of 1962, but because of the soft policy of the Union Government they do not get the required help from the security personnel.
Has the J&K state government not made any special arrangement for the livelihood of the people living in border areas?
No, not at all. Besides providing ration through PDS, no pasture area has been created by the state government. There is plenty of land in this high altitude region. But the policy of the state government is lop sided. After the formation of the Autonomous Hill Development Council, it comes under their purview. The Council has been submitting proposals to both the state and central governments about creation of more pasture areas. But there is no response. The Council does not have sufficient fund to do it on its own.
There are reports that the Government of India is hiding something on latest deal with China. What do you feel?
The Government has been doing it since 1962. Following our soft approach we have lost our ground. We lost Aksai Chin and still majority of the strategically crucial points are being grabbed one by one. In all these case much was hidden by the Government of India. In the latest incursion in Daulat Beg Oldi sector also the Government hid many vital facts. It is misinforming the people of India. Now China occupied Bhusa Nala, which is strategically very important for our defence. It has been our base inside 18 km of the LAC. The major problem with India is that we have no road connectivity even up to the patrolling base camp, whereas China has built roads beyond the LAC. In July 2010, India tried to make pucca construction in those areas, but on objection of China we abandoned it. It is a very serious matter. Last year two helicopters and 25 PLA troops crossed over to border in Chulersector and destroyed our 20 to 30 bunkers, which were located 2-3 km inside our land. The picture of Bharatmata which was made with white stones, was destroyed by them. This fact was hidden by our intelligence agencies and security personnel. The incursion here is going on under a well planned design—capture all our strategic areas to make our defence vulnerable. That has happened.
Since 2010 China reportedly intruded more than 500 times inside Indian Territory. What is the actual picture?
All reports about the incursions are correct. It is very serious. We are very vulnerable.
What is the deal between India and China for withdrawal this time?
The UPA government is claiming diplomatic edge in this deal, which is wrong. There are reports that the GoI has also agreed not to rebuild the bunkers that were destroyed by China earlier. It is a serious blot on our defence. These bunkers are very crucial for our security forces. This type of soft corners being shown by the GoI are demoralising both the local people and the security forces.
What will be the implications of this deal on India?
Very serious. We must not surrender. Instead of supporting the valour of local people and security forces the government is repeatedly demoralising them.
What should be the solution in your view?
We should not allow this to happen again. We must have an aggressive policy. That can be done by increasing the incursions of our security forces in crucial areas like Karakoram. We have to increase the strength of our army there. The proposal of creating a special army command with headquarters in Leh should be implemented as early as possible. By and large we have to give a clear message to China. Secondly, we should claim our original pasture areas. If China takes any action to stop us we should respond suitably. Third thing is that we should open the entire area for tourism—for both domestic and foreign tourist allowing them to go even upto the border. We have technology to keep a watch on the movement of everyone. Apart from it development has to be done there. All pending development projects should be completed on priority basis.
What is the ground reality at the incursion site after the withdrawal by PLA troops?
People are not satisfied what is being done by the GoI. They have serious doubts whether China has gone back. Fact is that our forces are not there. Therefore, China can come again any time. We cannot trust China at all. People want our security forces to be there permanently.