The battle games between India and China continue on the disputed boundary between the two neighbours, with the two sides flirting dangerously close to an accidental conflict on the 50th anniversary of the 1962 War.
On October 30, the defence brass of the two countries had some anxious moments after nuclear-armed Chinese fighter aircraft were dispatched to scramble Indian jets flying in the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh.
Sources say the incidents were reported by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to the defence ministry and a separate report by India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was also filed on the affair.
Mail Today has in its possession the report on the incident.
Around 3pm on that day, some IAF jets were on a routine sortie mission in Arunachal Pradesh, when they were picked up on their Lhasa-based radar by the Chinese, senior officials privy to the deliberations following the incident said.
Alarmed by the Indian jets, the brass of the PLAAF, the Chinese Air Force, set off a chain reaction. This resulted in two Chinese Sukhoi-27 jets taking off from the Gonggar air base in Tibet within minutes.
After taking off around 3:04 pm, the Chinese aircraft flew southeast towards the direction of the Indian aircraft. There were some anxious moments on the Indian side when the Chinese aircraft were picked up on the radar at 3:29 pm near Cuona.
Officials say the drama lasted for around 50 minutes and just 30 km short of the international boundary- which is few seconds for a supersonic aircraft- the Chinese fighters, realising the IAF jets had no intention of an offensive move, turned back.
Sources said the RAW report, sent to the government on November 9, noted the unusual activity of the Chinese aircraft, which was described as a reaction of the Chinese against Indian activity in the Tawang sector.
While no actual scramble took place, what is scary about the affair is that the radars lost track of the Chinese aircraft twice while the Indian aircraft disappeared from the radar once. In a hostile situation, these incidents can lead to accidental triggers.
Sources told Mail Today, the Chinese Sukhoi-27 was provided tactical radar support by the 42 Radar Regiment of the PLAAF, which is deployed all over Tibet.
The PLAAF is the largest air force in Asia with close to 1,600 aircraft, and the Russian made Sukhoi-27 is a key strike fighter for the force.
China has been ramping up its strategic assets in Tibet for quick reaction in a war situation.
It already has five operational airfields at Gonggar, Pangta, Linchi, Hoping and Gar Gunsa.
The extension of the Qinghai Tibet Railway line to Xigaze and another line from Kashgar to Hotan in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is also in progress.
Strategically, the Tibet Autonomous Region is pivotal for China’s security as it comprises approximately one-fourth of China’s land mass, and it continues to have aggressive deployments in the region.
While the new Chinese leadership led by Xi Jinping may not risk a war with India, the chances of a local commander triggering off a conflict cannot be ruled out given the growing intensity of the provocative incidents on the Line of Actual Control.
Mail Today has repeatedly flagged the clear and present danger emanating from China.
What New Delhi needs to do is ensure that a credible mechanism is in place which is operational between the two sides to avoid any accidental action by either side.
The fact is that there is a huge trust deficit between the two countries and a small error at an operational level on the boundary can lead to disastrous consequences for the two countries.