Both sides hold their nerve, opt for peaceful withdrawal
Ajay Banerjee in Ladakh
A small population of 135 makes up the village of Demchok in south-eastern Ladakh. It is in this remote village along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that the words ‘transgression by troops’ lead to media frenzy in India and China.
One wrong step by troops in these areas draws an echo across New Delhi and Beijing — such is the level of sensitivity.
Following an agreement thrashed out in April 2005, India and China have worked out what is called a ‘banner drill’ which helps keep tension under check.
Whenever either side perceives that a transgression has been made across the LAC, soldiers show a 10-feet-wide banner with a slogan painted across to each other. The banner primarily cites the 2005 agreement and says there is a need to back off from the present positions of patrolling.
The banners are shown across the LAC as perceptions of the two nations differ as to where the LAC is located.
Historically, there has never been a demarcated boundary. These are strategically vital portions along the eastern fringes of the Ladakh plateau, which is contiguous with Tibet.
China has occupied 1,700 square kilometre of Indian territory in this region. Troops of both sides often come face-to-face in areas like Demchok, Pangong Tso lake and Chushul.
The ‘banner drill’ is framed under the “protocol on modalities for implementation of CBMs in the military field along the LAC in the India-China border areas”. It is part of a protocol agreed upon to de-escalate momentary transgressions by soldiers of the two countries.
As part of the ‘banner drill’, lndian soldiers, on patrol duty along the LAC, carry a white-coloured banner which has slogans painted in English and Mandarin asking the Chinese soldiers to back off from areas where the perception of the LAC varies. Contrary to reports in the media, it is not just the Chinese who show their red-coloured banners asking Indian troops to back off from portions of the LAC which they presume as theirs.
Showing of banners is neither a hostile act and nor is it seen as a shame when soldiers of both armies show their respective banners to each other across the LAC. The Indian side does not want to get into telling how many times such face-offs happen annually, but sources said it is as frequent as once in three-four weeks.
“It keeps down the tension between fully armed troops on either side,” explains Brig Anil Chaudhary, who commands the Brigade at Kiari located some 160 km away from the LAC.
On ground, the troops, which are rotated every 18 months, are taught how to do the drill and its significance. Young subalterns are instructed by the JCO or the Subedar how the banners have to be unfurled without saying a word to the opposing side.
The standard operating procedure is activated if the border personnel of the two sides come face-to-face due to differences on the alignment of the LAC or any other reason.
The mandate of the agreement is: “Throughout the face-to-face situation, neither side shall use force or threaten to use force against the other”. It also calls upon both sides to stop their activities in the area and not advance any further. They have to return to their respective bases after the banner drill. (Concluded)