Amid standoff with China, Army Chief Gen Rawat arrives in Sikkim
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat today arrived in Sikkim in the backdrop of a standoff between Indian troops and Chinese army along the Sino-India border in Sikkim which is threatening to further strain the bilateral ties between the two countries.
Gen Rawat will take stock of the operational matters and interact with top commanders in the formation headquarters of the force in the border state.
The visit to Sikkim comes amid mounting tension between the two armies along the border in Sikkim following a scuffle between Indian troops and the personnel of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in a remote area earlier this month.
The genesis of the latest face-off is understood to have had a link to Donglang, a narrow but strategically important tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan. Official sources described Gen Rawat's visit as routine.
During the two-day-long visit, Gen. Rawat will travel to a number of other formation headquarters in the Northeast and review various operational matters in the region -- a strategically key region having most of the 3,488-km-long- border with China.
Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim.
China has accused Indian troops of "crossing the boundary" in the Sikkim section and demanded their immediate withdrawal, while asserting that it has shut down the Nathu La pass entry for Indian pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar because of the border standoff.
Meanehile, China has removed an old bunker of the Indian Army located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan in Sikkim by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request, official sources said. The forcible removal of the old bunker by using heavy machinery like a bulldozer came when the Indian side did not agree to a request by the Chinese authorities to dismantle it, the sources said. China is believed to have not taken kindly to India building many new bunkers and upgrading older ones along the border in Sikkim in the recent past to augment its defences against the PLA, the sources said.
China also said that it has lodged diplomatic protests with India, both in New Delhi and Beijing, alleging that the Indian troops trespassed into Chinese territory in the Sikkim sector.
The Indian Army has not commented on the face-off. Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said on Monday that recently China has begun the construction of a road in Donglang region, but was stopped by Indian troops crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The first batch of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims comprising about 50 people returned from Nathu La border post as the stand-off between India and China continues. The pilgrims returned to Gangtok on June 23 after staying in Nathu La for three days awaiting permission from the Chinese side to undertake the onward journey.
The second batch of the pilgrims did not move from Gangtok while pilgrims were told to go home as the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is unlikely to continue this year via Nathu La.
The Sikkim route to Mansarovar, which is in Tibet, was thrown open to public in 2015.
(With PTI inputs)