Nawang Dorje has spent months at the Black Top Mountains on the Indo-China Ladakh border. They have been coming there to deliver logistics to the Indian Army.
Dorje, 62, used to run a small shop in Merak village. But they had to deliver weapons and other items of need in the mountainous area. During this, he was also afraid of losing his life.
Dorje is not the only person doing this kind of work. Hundreds of such people from neighboring villages were appointed for the same work after tensions on the border increased.
Dorje said, “We even reached close to the Chinese soldiers, at that time we thought that they would target us.”
A year ago, India and China accused each other of infiltrating the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. The reality is that after the 1962 war, an area of 3,440 km has not yet been marked in this area and both countries have their own claims regarding their respective borders in this area.
According to Indian media reports, the tension on the border between the two countries started when Chinese soldiers came several kilometers inside the Indian border to set up their tents, build trenches and bring other heavy equipment.
Seeing this unexpected move of China, the Indian Army deployed thousands of soldiers on the border in Ladakh and started accumulating additional weapons there. This tension turned into a scuffle and violent clashes in the Galwan Valley in June 2020. 20 Indian soldiers died in this clash. China later said that four of its soldiers were killed in this clash.
In February 2021, China released a picture of the dispute between Chinese and Indian troops in June 2020
What do the local people say?
It is still very difficult to reach Pangong Tso Lake, which is near the Line of Actual Control. Tourists have got permission to come here in the month of January. But the BBC is one of the few media outlets that have reached the village of Merak.
About 350 people live in this village. All lead a nomadic life. There is not much change in the life of the people here. The outbreak of corona virus is negligible in the village and before entering the village you can see women grazing yaks and goats in traditional costumes.
However, in many places there are signs warning people about the danger. Army vehicles are seen carrying goods and soldiers on the single-lane road leading to the restricted military area in the area.
The tension between China and India for decades has had an impact on this area.
Dorje said, “In winter, people from our village and neighboring Chushul Valley region move to the other side with yaks and goats. But over the years China has been occupying the Indian border. This has reduced the grazing space for our animals. It’s falling.”
The impact of the violent clash between the soldiers of the two countries on the border last year is felt far and wide in the area.
Ajay Shukla, a strategic affairs expert and once a colonel in the Indian Army, said, “The ongoing standoff on the border between India and China during the last one year has changed the relationship between the two countries. The claim has been reiterated again. If India accepts it, then a lot of area on the border will go to China’s part.”
According to Shukla and other experts, China’s advance in eastern Ladakh will mean China’s ownership of hundreds of square kilometers of India’s land.
After several rounds of talks, both the countries agreed to retreat their forces in the area of Pangong Tso Lake. But China has not indicated withdrawal from Hot Spring, Gogra Post and Depsang.
What is China’s stand?
China already controls Aksai Chin in the eastern region of Ladakh. Although India has been claiming its claim, but this area is strategically important for China as it connects China’s Xinjiang province with western Tibet.
China has been continuously saying that the aggressive policy of the Indian government regarding Ladakh is responsible for the current situation.
Senior Colonel Zohu Bo, retired from China’s People’s Liberation Army, told the BBC, “From China’s point of view, India was doing road and other construction work in the Galvan Valley of Ladakh, China claims it was happening in its border “
He said, “China was traditionally in favor of the India-China border line, but India was emphasizing on the Line of Actual Control before 1962. There is a fundamental difference between the two countries regarding the Line of Actual Control from where to where it should be considered. There are obviously differences.”
However, after the withdrawal of the Indian Army from some areas, due to the current tension between the two countries, the concern of the people of the villages settled around the area of Pangong Tso Lake has increased.
Ban on local people
“The Indian army does not allow the local nomadic people to go into the mountains for their livelihood and for grazing animals,” says Konchuk Stanzin, an independent councilor in the border village of Chushul.
According to him, the animals need to be taken to Black Top and Gorung Hill in the winter for grazing.
Stenzin said, “When local people go to the mountain area with their animals and tents, they make a landmark. These landmarks are very important during border dispute talks. If the local people stop going to their traditional farms So it won’t be to our advantage in the long run.”
On Stanzin’s allegations, the Indian Army said in April that the Line of Actual Control has not yet been decided and that the common people are misinterpreting it in their own way.
Along with this, the Indian Army has also said that in view of the current situation in the eastern Udakh, the local people have been advised not to go to the restricted areas with cattle.
In recent times, India is battling with the second deadly wave of corona infection. Due to this, there is more discussion about Corona in the Indian media, but there is less discussion about the India-China border dispute. But if experts are to be believed, this dispute will trouble Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a long time.
In the initial phase of this controversy, Prime Minister Modi had said that there was no infiltration along the border. Military experts were very disappointed on this statement of his.
According to Ajay Shukla, there has been no significant change in the situation since then. He says, “India’s political leadership wants to show that China has not occupied our land. The government wants to hide its failure, but if we show that no one has occupied our land, then we will return it.” How will you ask?”
Convoy of Indian Trucks
At the same time, the Indian government has now realized that China is also more powerful from a strategic point of view and also India’s largest trading partner. Without Chinese investments and imports, many Indian businesses could be in trouble.
India is importing life-saving medical equipment and medical oxygen equipment from Chinese traders to combat corona infection.
This is the reason why many people are appealing that both the countries should move beyond the current tension and establish restraint and peace on the border.
“I believe that this is not the most important moment in bilateral relations. But it can definitely prove to be a turning point for working on how to strengthen our mutual relations,” says Johu, who has retired from the Chinese military.