‘India-China border back to normal, but trouble could erupt again’

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) The situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China is now back to normal after the Chinese withdrew their military encroachments in a disputed plateau in arid eastern Ladakh, but there is no telling when the situation might erupt again through “more unexploded bombs”, particularly preceding important visits on either side.

This is India’s assessment after the three-week long faceoff, during which the Manmohan Singh government got a lot of opposition and media flak for its allegedly diffident response to the crisis, but New Delhi’s resoluteness and “quiet diplomacy” finally resulted in Chinese soldiers withdrawing to their original positions without the situation going out of hand and straining an already “complex relationship.”

Five flag meetings between the two forces and tough negotiations not only resolved the standoff but culmimated in External Affairs Mnister Salman Khurshid finally making his scheduled visit to Beijing Thursday to prepare for the visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India later this month, his first foreign trip after the new leadership took charge in Beijing in March.

“We cannot rule out such things happenings again.. .there will be trouble (off and on),” said a highly placed source. “But the important thing is we can handle it and the crisis mechanism works.”

Sources said the Chinese no doubt sought to send a “political message” to New Delhi but probably did not anticipate the strong Indian official and civil society response to the transgressions.

However, at no point of time was there any “military threat” to India from about half a dozen Chinese soldiers who set up five tents on the Depsang plain bordering the disputed Aksai Chin, a major bone of contention between the two countries over their undemarcated frontier that resulted in a war in 1962 and has not been resolved since.

What India is not sure about is whether it was a military adventurism by local commanders or was it orchestrated from Beijing with a view to “stirring the pot” ahead of an important visit, something the Chinese have invariably done in the past three decades.

The incident was no doubt a test of Indian preparedness from which it emerged strongly. “Ten years ago we would been able to force the issue so quickly,” said the source. “Today, our border infrastructure and our military preparedness is at a different level, and we were able to face the situation with some confidence.”

What has to be understood, said other sources in the know, is that from day one, when the incursion was first detected within six hours on April 15, thanks to better surveillance equipment, India had insisted China “restore the status quo”, which they finally did.

Right from then Indian border guards faced them, almost eyeball to eyeball, by replicating the structures and in all the five flag meetings made it clear that India was ready to take them on militarily.

“We must have the ability to tell them that if they do something silly, it would be dangerous,” said the source – and that message apparently went home.

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