Tuesday, 25 June 2013

China agrees to Indian condition on not freezing troop levels

Signalling its willingness to meet India halfway on creating a new architecture of confidence-building measures on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Beijing has accepted New Delhi's condition that the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) will not amount to freezing current troop levels on the frontier.

Responding to the Indian draft of the agreement, sources said China has also clarified that it does not expect the clause on returning inadvertent border-crossers to apply to

Tibetans as well. Many Tibetans cross over to India for fear of persecution, a channel India has historically kept open.

The second Chinese draft on the BDCA has arrived just days ahead of the next round of Special Representative-level talks on the boundary issue on Thursday.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who will lead the Indian side, is expected to discuss the details with his newly-appointed Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

This agreement is a Chinese idea that was first formally conveyed at the bilateral defence dialogue, headed by the defence secretary on the Indian side. The new Chinese administration followed it up quickly and even handed over the first draft of the BDCA in the first week of March.

A bit surprised by the sense of urgency China was attaching to the agreement, New Delhi conducted a detailed analysis of the draft and found important areas of concern. These included clauses which alluded to maintaining agreed troop levels along the LAC.

Given that China had already built effective infrastructure on its side of the border to allow it to station troops at a fair distance from the LAC, sources said these terms suited Beijing more than New Delhi. Moreover, the flat topography on the Chinese side makes troop movement faster and easier than on the Indian side.

The biggest fear was that this could thwart the major military expansion India has undertaken along the LAC. While two additional divisions have already come up, the final go-ahead to set up a new corps, which would amount to a fresh accretion of about 90,000 soldiers, is also due soon.

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