Sunday, May 18, 2008

Chinese Hand in the Finger Area - Flashpoint in Sikkim

In a move which took India by surprise, China laid claim to a small tract of land in North Sikkim, referred to as the “Finger Area” by the Indian Army and even threatened to demolish existing stone structures there. India has strongly rebutted these claims, lodged an official protest and barred Chinese troops from entering the area. The area is in the northernmost tip of Sikkim, north of a place called Gyangyong, and because it appears like a protruding finger on the map, it is referred to by the name Finger Area. This territory overlooks a strategically important valley known as the Sora Funnel. It contains several stone cairns, which are essentially heaps of stones that can be used for shelter.

The row began last year when Chinese troops started incursions in the area frequently — this year itself about 50 Chinese transgressions have been reported in this area — and then started building a road towards the end of the year that crossed this tract of land. The official Indian response as usual was muted. In the past too Chinese troops used to cross the area during patrolling. However, this was attributed to the general confusion that occurs during patrols along the Line of Actual Control. In many other areas, Indian troops, too, would cross Chinese territory for the same practical reasons like taking the shorter and negotiable route which may involve bit of transgression.

China seems to have upped the ante because of largely India’s knee-jerk reaction to Chinese incursions in the past one year. Further, though it openly appreciated India’s efforts to curb Tibetan activities within India during the height of the agitation China views Indian role in the Lhasa flare up with suspicion. The Indian body language in response to any Chinese action on either the Sikkim or Arunachal border appears to be weak. This naturally encouraged the Chinese to lay claims to the Finger Area.

Chinese intentions are suspect; there seems to be an effort to revive claims over Sikkim which is an integral part of India by creating tensions along the border. Earlier, China destroyed a makeshift bunker at Doka La near the Sino-Sikkim-Bhutan trijunction sources have said, was a Chinese effort to bring Sikkim back into the boundary controversy. India needs to beef up its ground forces all along the Chinese border but also its air force sending a strong signal to China warning against any misadventure. However, India again has chosen to downplay the incident as well as the Chinese threat in the area.


Pete said...

Hi Kumar

Militarised borders usually perpetuate difficult situations. This seems no exception.

Fortunately Australia has no land borders with anyone, we're lucky - but this is no help.

I think China will usually/always? outgun India. I suppose diplomacy is being tried?

Are there population pressures from the Chinese side justifying their claim to the finger?



Kumar said...

Hi Pete

Successful diplomacy depends upon how effectively India can deploy and beef its ground forces in the area. Though this area has been dilineated and Sikkim is recognised as an integral part of India, China has been playing this cat and mouse game all along the is disputed border with India.

There is no pressure of population on the Chinese side justifying the claim to the finger.

lokadhikar said...

good analysis.

do keep it up.

Pete said...

Thanks Kumar