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Border incursions strain relations
NEW DELHI/BEIJING/ JAMMU, SEPT 18 (REUTERS/IANS):
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Published on 19 Sep. 2009 12:00 AM IST
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Anger over troop deployments, reports of border incursions, and a high-pitched media debate have reignited strains between China and India over long-festering border disputes in the Himalayas. The details of whether boots actually crossed borders are murky, but experts in both countries agree that tensions have risen, highlighting the fragility of relations between the neighbours. The two Asian powers have disputed their 3,500 km (2,200 mile) border since a 1962 war. In that war, China seized much of the Himalayan high ground, worrying India which traditionally sees the mountain range as a strategic buffer against invaders. Despite decades of mistrust, trade is booming and China is now India’s biggest trade partner. The value of bilateral deals is expected to pass $60 billion next year, a 30-fold increase since 2000, raising the stakes in maintaining peace. While a new war is very unlikely, the unsettled border between the world’s two most populous countries remains the biggest single impediment to better relations. There have been 13 rounds of largely fruitless talks in recent years. “The temperature on the border is rising,” said former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “The situation is disturbing political circles.” China has upgraded roads on its side of the border while India has boosted troop numbers on its more challenging terrain. IAF gets new Air base Coinciding with reports of Chinese intrusions into Indian territory, the Indian Air Force (IAF) Friday said it had converted a landing ground meant for helicopters into an air strip for aircraft. The Advanced Landing Ground at Nyoma in Ladakh, about 25 km from the border, Friday morning received its first fixed wing aircraft in the form of an AN-32. At 6.25 a.m., Group Captain S.C. Chatekar touched down on the airstrip, 13,300 feet above sea level, with Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne and Indian Army Northern Command chief Lieutenant General P.C. Bharadwaj on board. “Helicopters have been landing here, but this is for the first time that a fixed wing aircraft has landed,” an IAF spokesperson said. The development coincides with reports of Chinese border intrusions. China and India have denied this. The landing was made possible after extensive surveys, said Col. D.K. Kachari, the defence ministry spokesperson in Udhampur, headquarters of the Northern Command. The task of developing the landing ground to the standards required for fixed wing aircraft was undertaken by the Engineers Regiment of 14 Corps. Friday’s landing marks the culmination of joint effort by the IAF and Indian Army to enable the air force to operate larger flying machines in the inhospitable terrain in support of the army, the IAF official added. Nyoma has been developed to connect the remote areas of Ladakh region to the mainland. “This (air strip) will ensure that movements in the area continue when the road traffic gets affected during the harsh winters,” he added. It will also improve communication network and facilitate the economical ferrying of supplies besides promoting tourism. The landing comes just 15 months after an AN-32 landed at the Daulat-Beg-Oldie (DBO), the highest airfield in the world situated at an altitude of 16,200 feet, also in Ladakh region. The IAF has been upgrading and refurbishing Advanced Landing Grounds along the border with China. India and China fought a war in 1962.

 
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