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Indian Troops Push Back Chinese, Clashes Erupt On Sikkim Border

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Indian troops have rolled back attempts by the Chinese PLA to push their way into Sikkim’s Muguthang valley and clashes took an ugly turn on Friday.

Military sources in India’s Eastern Army said that the Chinese have been trying to push their way into Muguthang valley , claiming that “whole Sikkim is ours” and “India has illegally occupied it.” 
Clashes first erupted in late January when an Indian patrol encountered a Chinese platoon crossing the line held by them. The last fistfights were reported on Friday.  ” This in an ongoing drama started by the Chinese but if they come into our territory shouting and howling with their usual propaganda teams , we can’t hold back.” 
“We are under strict orders not to open fire at any cost, so our boys got into fisticuffs because the Chinese were trying to stay put. One Chinese major was among those injured,” said a senior officer in India’s eastern army , but on condition of strict anonymity. 

He told Easternlink that the eastern army headquarters even pulled out from the area an Indian junior officer who had assaulted the PLA major just to cool things down. 
“But the Chinese seem to be on a highly political mission because their commissars are even questioning Sikkim is a part of China,” said the senior officer at Eastern Army.
He said that before the local commanders could consider putting in place some confidence building border meetings,  the COVID pandemic broke out.
“Now it is difficult for us to hold meetings with the Chinese because of fears over the spreading COVID pandemic,” he said. ” So the Chinese often come howling their way in and our boys take them on in full battle spirits.”
But the senior officer said that the headquarters have asked all troops to avoid carrying arms while patrolling to avoid escalating a firefight erupting because the situation is very tense.
“So it all ends up in a free for all, a kabaddi or a team wrestling match, with our boys shouting and pushing and the Chinese only relenting when they can’t handle it anymore,” he said. ” That raises fears of COVID because the soldiers on both sides are not jostling and wrestling in close body contact with each other but also have to patrol the area in strength. Social distancing becomes impossible to maintain in such tense situations.” 
Sources at the Eastern army headquarters told Easternlink that reinforcements have been moved to Muguthang valley to meet the Chinese aggression.  Deployment details cannot be provided by Easternlink for reasons of national security.
Analysts say the Chinese had accepted Sikkim as a part on India when it reopened border trade through the Nathu La pass in 2006 for the first time since the 1962 war.  That was seen as a end to the Chinese objections to Sikkim’s merger with India in 1975 . This writer , then a BBC correspondent , covered the resumption of border trade in Nathu La. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5150682.stm)
But the Chinese worked up huge tensions on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction in May 2017 when PLA units with road construction parties pushed their way into Doklam (Dong Lang in Chinese) from their positions in the Yaden valley.

Indian troops from Sikkim’s Nathan forward zone rushed in to fill the void left in the Bhutanese defences after some of their forward positions were abandoned by their troops due to heavy rains.  A tense 73-day standoff ensued with Indian and Chinese soldiers fighting each other without weapons.  Again, this writer was the only Indian journalist who could reach the area to witness what an burly Sikh havildar described as a ‘tough kabaddi match.” (https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2103881/dispatch-doklam-indians-dig-long-haul-standoff-china)
Finally , the Chinese pulled back from Bhutanese territory and the Indians retreated to their bases in Sikkim after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese president Xi Jinping at Hamburg on the sidelines of a G-20 summit and set in motion a process of normalisation that ended with high level summit visits by both leaders .
But tensions rose again after India reorganised its Jammu & Kashmir province last year , scrapping the Art 370 of the Indian Constitution that provided special autonomy to the province , where Pakistan has backed an Islamist insurgency for three decades now.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior BJP leaders have repeatedly claimed after the scrapping of Art 370 that “we will not rest in peace until we recovered those parts of Kashmir held by Pakistan and Aksai Chin held by China.” 
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi cancelled a visit to India on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s summit meet with Modi last year but Indian foreign minister S Jaishanker and foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale , both veteran China hands, rescued the summit which was finally held in Tamil Nadu’s Mammallapuram.
But belated muscle flexing by BJP leaders about recovering Pakistan-held Kashmir and Aksai Chin seem to have upset China.
” I would imagine the Chinese activate multiple pressure points in such situations, ” said China watcher Binoda Mishra. 
Major General Arun Roye , who has served long years on the border with China, told Easternlink the Doklam region and adjoining areas of Sikkim are ‘strategically very important’ for India because the Siliguri corridor that links seven northeastern states to the Indian mainland can be easily threatened if the Chinese manage to break through in that region. 
“It is barely 65 kms that the Chinese will have to cover, so the Indian army is deployed in strength in several layers in that region,” he told Easternlink without divulging details of deployment. 
“I can tell you we are well prepared in the area to deal with the Chinese,” Roye, now with the Calcutta-based thinktank CENERS-K , said.
Probal Dasgupta , a former Indian army major and author of “Watershed” , says that it is in Sikkim that the Indian army narrative first changed the narrative on the border that emerged out of India’s humiliating defeat in the 1962 war.

“It was at Nathu La and Cho La that Indian general Sagat Singh unleashed a fierce artillery assault on Chinese positions to inflict huge casualties in 1967. That was first real victory over the Chinese and helped our army regain the confidence that finally led to the astounding victory in 1971 war,” says Dasgupta, whose book deals with the 1967 border skirmishes in Sikkim.
That tough riposte in 1967 might have weighed on the Chinese when they did not militarily respond to the 1975 Sikkim merger with India , a smooth operation executed by India’s fledging external intelligence R&AW and now detailed in a book “Dawn of Democracy” written by G B S Sidhu who was one of the officers involved with the merger.

At a distance of 19 km from Chopta Valley, 24 km from Thangu, 51 km from Guru Dongmar Lake and 59 km from Lachen, Muguthang Valley is a mountain valley situated to the east of famous Chopta Valley near Lachen. It is one of the popular places of trekking in Sikkim and among the must visit places in Lachen.

Also called as Lhonak Valley, it is situated at an elevation of 14,850 feet and can be reached by trekking from the Chopta Valley. This valley is normally uninhabitable except for some occasional settlements by Tibetan nomads for grazing their Yaks. This high mountain valley is basically under the constant vigil of Indian Army as this is the last outpost of Indian Army in the eastern part of extreme North Sikkim. From here they monitor the Nepal-Tibet border.

Lhonak Valley is a trans-Himalayan grassland in the exposed river valley of Goma Chu in northwest Sikkim, with boggy marshes, glacial lakes, barren scree slopes and glaciers. High alpine valley of Muguthang is only inhabitable for rare high altitude ruminants and their predators. Lakes and marshes here are used as stopover sites for migratory water birds. Muguthang is also popular for the annual Yak race which takes place during the festival of DrukpaTeshi.

Muguthang Valley can be reached from Chopta Valley by trekking through the high 5,900 m pass, the Lhonak La. This trek provides a fantastic view of glaciers, clear lakes, and rare flora. This 12 km trek starts from Kalapathar where the vehicular side road ends. After 3 hours of uphill walk one can reach Lhonak La. The Lhonak Pass itself is narrow and festooned with prayer flags. From here the view of the Lhonak Valley is marvelous and spell­binding. From Lhonak La, a gentle walk down into the valley takes visitors to Muguthang. Yak safari can also be arranged on demand during the trek. This trek is recently opened and is close to the Tibet border. From Muguthang, it is also possible to reach the Green Lake Base Camp.

Summer is the best season and the valley remains accessible for visitors. Snowfall makes the Valley inaccessible in winter.

LOCATION At a distance of 19 km from Chopta Valley, 24 km from Thangu, 51 km from Guru Dongmar Lake and 59 km from Lachen, Muguthang Valley is a mountain valley situated to the east of famous Chopta Valley near Lachen. It is one of the popular places of trekking in Sikkim and among the must visit places in Lachen.

Also called as Lhonak Valley, it is situated at an elevation of 14,850 feet and can be reached by trekking from the Chopta Valley. This valley is normally uninhabitable except for some occasional settlements by Tibetan nomads for grazing their Yaks. This high mountain valley is basically under the constant vigil of Indian Army as this is the last outpost of Indian Army in the eastern part of extreme North Sikkim. From here they monitor the Nepal-Tibet border.

Lhonak Valley is a trans-Himalayan grassland in the exposed river valley of Goma Chu in northwest Sikkim, with boggy marshes, glacial lakes, barren scree slopes and glaciers. High alpine valley of Muguthang is only inhabitable for rare high altitude ruminants and their predators. Lakes and marshes here are used as stopover sites for migratory water birds. Muguthang is also popular for the annual Yak race which takes place during the festival of DrukpaTeshi. 

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