Interview/ Krishna Chaudhary, director general, Indo-Tibetan Border Police
The Chinese army is curious, if not worried. Days ago, an Indian civilian contingent went right up to the Tun Jun La pass in Barahoti, which is a demilitarised zone in Uttarakhand, but the media ignored it. What got reported were the Chinese transgressions in the same area in July. The quiet yet sustained efforts being made by New Delhi to assert its claim over its territory along the Himalayan frontier with China, however, is not going unnoticed by Beijing.
The Tun Jun La pass is one example of the well-formulated strategy being adopted by the government to change the discourse along the Sino-Indian border. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary spoke about such issues including building new infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border and about Chinese incursions into Indian territory.
Is there a new thrust on building infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border?
It is not as if things have suddenly started happening. You cannot develop infrastructure except in a sequential manner. If you want to go to the last point, you have to first develop infrastructure. Yes, in the last two years, the investment on infrastructure has been much heavier and larger. We have been able to get more sanctions. But it is not as if the ITBP did not have infrastructure before that. We had fairly good infrastructure and we are improving. The same applies for roads. We are going about it in a phased manner.
What is the basic aim?
The basic aim will be to try and connect all our border outposts so that wherever our jawans are posted, it would be easier to supply ration and fuel to them and to transport them and bring them back. Whenever somebody gets injured or has an ailment, we could give him medical relief quickly and so on. Subsequently, we would also like to get connected to all the passes.
Have there been attempts by the Chinese to demolish our infrastructure in the disputed areas?
There are certain areas which both sides see as disputed. So if one side tries to construct something there, the other may have objections. There are a number of our border outposts (BOPs) which are still not connected by roads. We are more interested in getting connected to those BOPs. We are interested in getting connected to our passes. Pushing for infrastructure in a disputed territory is like asking for a misunderstanding.
But that is something we cannot rule out in the future.
It is something which will depend on political initiative. When both sides agree, like when the prime minister took an initiative and something happened on the Bangladesh border, if something like that happens on the Chinese border and there is an agreement as to which areas are taken off the disputed list and an agreement is reached about what exactly is the international boundary, then both sides can go ahead with work on their own sides.
Can you recount any friendly gestures on the border?
There are hundreds. There is a bit of a language problem, but the attitude on both sides is always very friendly. Once in a while, if we see they are having any problem, we do offer to help, and if they see we are having a problem, they also offer to help.
Has there been a spike in incursions? There was a transgression in Barahoti in Uttarakhand recently.
The number of transgressions has steadily been going down. In any disputed or perceived-to-be disputed territory, both sides are a little cautious about what the other is doing. So if one side sees activity on the other side, there is some response. If not anything else, it is the curiosity to see what the other side is doing. So if there is some movement on their side, we go down to see what is happening, similarly when there is movement from our side, they come to see what we are doing.