The Chinese Army's withdrawl from the Daulat Beg Oldie sector in Ladakh Sunday after a 20-day tricky incursion, may have served Beijing's purpose well ahead of Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India towards the end of this month, but it raises a pertinent question mark on whether India's frontiers are secure?
The Ladakh, Sikkim and Tawang sectors are always in limelight, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) resorts to such misadventures to draw international attention and keep the Sino-India border row alive.
It is a fact that most of the 1,080-kilomter-long border with China along Arunachal Pradesh is completely porous, unsecured and without any perception of a Line of Actual Control (LAC), as the concrete posts demarcating the border between both nations is covered by thick shrubs, making it impossible even for the security forces to identify the LAC.
Right from the defence and external ministers to the top rungs of the Army, border incursions are repeatedly played down, attributing such moves to 'different perception' of the LAC.
The Keyala Pass is the best example. In October 2000, a team of adventurers led by Kumar Mihu had ventured into that sector in Dibang Valley district with the help of Assam Rifles guarding the border. The team was shocked to find tell tale signs of Chinese beer bottles, cigarettes and eatable packets strewn all along the Indian border that had prompted the then chief minister Mukut Mithi to accuse China of intruding into Indian territory.
The story filed by me was flashed all over by PTI giving the best opportunity to then defence minister George Fernandes to nullify his statement 'China is our enemy number one' by air-dashing to Itanagar to deny the intrusion and announcing improved bilateral ties between the two Asian giants.
Sadly, six months later, Fernandes had admitted in the Rajya Sabha that China had intruded 50 metres into Indian territory.
South Block mandarins, including the political bosses, without any knowledge of the ground realities, issue statements based on feedbacks provided through sketch maps.
The entire area from Kaila Pass to the inhabited Indian areas is about 150 kilometers long, which means no one knows the status of those uninhabited areas. Some Assam Rifles personnel and intelligence men used to undertake months-long patrolling from the last Indian border post to reach the pass and vice versa.
Chinese smugglers of high value animal organs used in Chinese medicines with feedback from the PLA used to walk into Indian territory in search of Kasturi (Mrig navi) and precious medicines like Mishmi Tita during the intervening period of the Indian patrol party's return.
Kasturi Mrig, scientifically known as Moschus Chrysogaster, is an endangered wild species living in the Himalayas. Kasturi (musk), an aromatic fluid produced by a gland present near its naval, is used in approximately 150 Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines for which this beautiful animal is killed.
Arunachal Pradesh swears by the wonders of Mishmi Teeta or Coptis Teeta, a herb that can't be found anywhere else on earth. The bitter plant, locals claim, can cure almost anything.
But when her mother Gutitun was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Basamlu Krisikro went beyond the herb - that derives its name from her ethnic group Mishmi. She began giving her mother a daily cup of organic green tea sourced from a niche estate near Roing town in Lower Dibang Valley district. But it wasn't always convenient for her to travel miles to get the chemical-free beverage. So Basamlu, 39, decided to grow tea in the backyard of her house at Wakro, writes journalist Rahul Karmakar.
The porous Tama Chung Chung sector in Upper Subansiri district is equally unsecured as civilians complain about border incursions.
The Indian Army is not aware of 1962 hero rifleman Shere Thapa of 2 JK Rifles, who had killed numerous PLA soldiers in the Tama Chung ridge on Oct 18, 1962. The Subansiri River had failed to carry the huge corpses of PLA men before Thapa was killed by a Chinese soldier wounded by his bullet.
His mortal remains buried respectfully by PLA soldiers with a small note praising his bravery, were brought by the villagers to build his memorial, which stands tall today as a testimony to his gallantry.
The great soldier is highly revered in the area for his act of gallantry, but none bothered to honour him posthumously.
Last year, the Indian Government made amends, when Defence Minister A K Antony paid tribute to him at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi. Why is there reservation about recognising Shere Thapa's bravery in the face of adversity and certain death?
After announcing that there is no fear for the eastern frontier during the Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Day celebration at Itanagar, Antony did a U-turn by directing the Army to fortify the border during his first meeting with new Army Chief General Bikram Singh.
"By and large, the border is peaceful, and at the same time, India is taking care of strengthening its capabilities to protect our national interest from any kind of challenges from any quarters. The Eastern border is safe and we will make it safer, (and) for that, whatever is needed to strengthen our security apparatus, we are taking care of it continuously in a systematic manner," Antony said.
"We are also taking care of the socio-economic development of the people living in border areas. I want to make it amply clear that our security forces are capable of protecting our national interests," he said.
Besides developing defence capabilities, he said, infrastructures like roads and airfields are also being built for defence and civilian operations as the GoI wants Arunachal to develop fast as true partner in India's development.
How prepared we are?
The foot track to Khinzemane, the last army post along the India-China border in the Tawang sector, is in a dilapidated condition and the log bridges along the Nyamjang Chu river are equally in a ramshackle condition.
This clearly reflects the preparedness of our forces.
Will those concerned for the securing frontiers accept the hard truth and take adequate steps instead of indulging in political rhetoric.
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Pradeep Kumar, Editor-in-Chief of the Arunachal Front newspaper By Pradeep Kumar(ANI)