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Army moves troops to India-China border

NEW DELHI: A bulk of the troops of the Sukna-based 33 Corps have been or are in the process of being moved to the Indo-China frontier in Sikkim even as the controversy over the Doklam plateau at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction continues to surface from time to time, reports The Quint.

Eastern Command army sources revealed that all three divisions under the 33 Corps, which is stationed in Sukna, near Siliguri in West Bengal, have been deployed on the Sino-Indian border.

The troop movement from Sukna began about 20-25 days ago. The most important and vital elements of the corps have moved up and taken position in designated “Op Areas”.

The troops are at varying depths of 20 kms to 500 metres from the India-China border in north and east Sikkim. Some units were given four days’ written notice to move to the upper reaches while others have been handed out as little as six hours’ notice to move up.

A corps is made up of three divisions and number of troops, including combat and noncombat soldiers, is between 30-40,000. The 17th mountain division is stationed in Gangtok anyway.

While the troop movement began a few days ago, the official information for deployment was shared with mid-ranking officers on August7. Sources said that 60 percent of the corps has moved up to Sikkim as of today, but the movement “has more to do with posturing”.

Army sources admitted that deployment is unusual as “it has begun barely two months before the onset of winter in the upper reaches of the Himalayan range bordering China and Bhutan”.

It is said that heavy deployment is in response to heightened and quick construction of bunkers and other military fortifications by the PLA in Tibet over the past few weeks.

When contacted, an army spokesperson said, “I am not authorised to speak on such highly classified matters. Besides, I am not aware of such deployment.”

Sources, however, disclosed that nearly three months after Indian troops prevented a contingent of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from restarting work on constructing a road in Doklam or Doka La or Donglang as the Chinese prefer to call the area near the trijunction, about 150-200 soldiers of both armies remain at the flashpoint zone.

Besides infantry troops and artillery units of the Sukna-based 33 Corps, the Indian army has mobilised sappers and engineers from Panagarh in lower Bengal to bolster its presence along the India-China borders in Sikkim.

Army sources revealed to The Quint that the sappers and engineers’ units have been made part of this massive mobilisation, comprising between 30,000-40,000 troops, for building bridges across mountainous streams in the higher reaches where the network of roads “may not be in the best of conditions in the monsoons”.

While the movement of the 33 Corps has been in response to the Chinese PLA efforts to reinforce their side of the border in Tibet, the larger objective is “defensive” and therefore part of a strategy to build a show of force in the face of “continuing Chinese statements and building of bunkers that have a military objective”.

Indian army as well as the Ministry of External Affairs has sought to keep the latest mobilisation of troops under wraps with the actual movement of troops carried out over the last 20-25 days being described as “trickle up” so as not to cause any alarm in the border regions.

India orders evacuation of village: Chinese media

The army has ordered evacuation of a frontier Sikkim village near the site of a tense India-China border standoff, the People’s Daily newspaper said on Thursday.

The Indian military refused comments on the report by Asian giant’s biggest newspaper, which also happens to be the Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece.

But army sources denied any evacuation or plans for such an action in Sikkim.

The People’s Daily tweeted: “Indian troops on Thu orders evacuation of Nathang village, near site of two-month standoff between #Chinese and #Indian armies.” The tweet carried a picture showing the two points where the Indian military allegedly crossed the “mutually recognized boundary”.

The People’s Daily account about the evacuation matches reports in sections of Indian media that said the villagers have been asked to vacate their houses immediately. Even as Beijing demands Indian troops to withdraw from the Doklam plateau, New Delhi on the other maintains that the planned Chinese road will have serious security implication for India.

The Chinese rejected India’s suggestion for a simultaneous withdrawal of troops to end the longest border faceoff between the neighbours in nearly three decades.

The Indian Army is said to have rescheduled a routine training exercise of troops from the Siliguri-based 33 Corps because of the border dispute.

Sources said the schedule of Operation Alert, a two-week training exercise for troops to familiarise with the area, was advanced from late September to early August.

India hopes to settle the crisis through bilateral talks, despite the Chinese sabre-rattling.

War is not a solution and India would resolve the standoff with China through dialogue, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament last week. But China has not budged from its stand that India must unilaterally withdraw its troops from Doklam.

Even if there is one Indian soldier even for a day it is still a violation of China’s sovereignty, Wang Wenli, a top Chinese foreign ministry official said earlier this week.

 “The Indian side has also many tri-junctions. What if we use the same excuse and enter the Kalapani region between China, India and Nepal or even into the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan?” she asked.

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