GAUTAM DATT: Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan surprised everyone at the Sabarmati Riverfront Garden on Wednesday by singing the opening lines of the Raj Kapoor classic ‘Awaara Hoon’. The spontaneous rendition was quite the crescendo on a day of a resurrected Bhai-Bhai show, as Chinese President Xi Jinping began his three-day visit to India from Ahmedabad.
In Ladakh, meanwhile, it was cold courage and colder steel that marked the Sino-Indian interface as confrontations continued at two places and a third started up.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the Sabarmati waterfront in Ahmedabad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping did take the Sino-Indian relationship an extra mile or two in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, but the two nations stayed locked in three local not-an-inch confrontations in southeastern Ladakh.
Local army commanders held their second flag meeting in three days at Spanggur Gap on Wednesday to find ways to restore original troop positions in Chumar, and end a nearly week-long deadlock in Demchok.
Even as talks were on, Indian and Chinese troops came face-to-face at another location in Chumar.
A banner drill was held to re-enforce territorial claims, but the stand-off had continued till late into the evening. The latest hotspot is 2km east of the point where the two sides have been holding positions in eyeball-to-eyeball mode for the past week or so.
With the opening up of the third confrontational point, the situation has only worsened.
The grandeur shown at the strategic level by Modi and Xi, who advocated combining China as the “world’s factory” and India as the “world’s back office” to fuel global economic growth, was missing from the tactical theatre.
Local commanders met twice on Wednesday, sources told Mail Today.
Both the Indian and the Chinese armies maintained tough positions at the flag meetings. China insisted that India should dismantle the bunkers it has constructed in Chumar. The Indian position overlooks a new road constructed by China.
India has flatly ruled out moving from its position in Chumar, claiming it has held the point for years.
The result is that a fairly large number of Chinese troops are now positioned around 100 metres from an equally large contingent of the Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Police personnel at Chumar.
East of Chumar in Demchok, Rebos (nomads) have pitched tents on a pasture at Chardin-Ninglung Nullah (CNN) track junction, a disputed patch.
The tents have come up on the pasture which the Indian side believes were assisted by the Chinese army. India wants these tents to be removed and the Rebos to move back to their territory.
The Indian nomads have also pitched their tents in the common grazing area.
Sources said on Wednesday that the number of Chinese tents had come down. The Chinese have also objected to the construction of a canal by India in the Demchok area.
India has justified the construction claiming it was being done on its territory under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) Scheme.
China suspects that the Indian Army is strengthening its defences in the guise of construction activities.
India and China hold different perceptions of their boundaries. China’s aggression in Chumar is being seen in India this time as the opening of a new front.
India is at an advantageous position in Chumar, but China wants India to vacate the area. If India agrees, China will gain control of the area.
In Ahmedabad meanwhile, India had rolled out the red carpet for Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, who began their visit from Gujarat.
Xi and Modi witnessed the signing of three pacts in a departure from protocol. Three memorandums of understanding were signed, making China’s Guangzhou and India’s Ahmedabad sister cities, promising the setting up of industrial parks, and the development of cultural and social ties between China’s Guangdong province and the Gujarat government.
Modi also took Xi for a walk along the Sabarmati riverfront as well, signalling that the two leaders had started on a positive note.
Gujarati cultural performances were the late-afternoon appetiser; a lavish 150-dish dinner followed in the evening.
With inputs from Darshan Desai in Ahmedabad