On December 7, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nisith Pramanik told the Lok Sabha that there had been no cases of infiltrations along the India-China border in the last three years, while troops from Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar have infiltrated the border on several occasions.
Pramanik’s response listed that in the past three years, there were 128 cases of infiltration along the India-Pakistan border, 1,787 along the India-Bangladesh border, 25 along the India-Nepal border and 133 along the India-Myanmar border, but there were no cases of infiltration reported along the India-Bhutan and India-China border.
Soon after this, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge contested Pramanik’s response by highlighting the 2020 violent clash between the Indian and Chinese armies at Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, which led to the loss of lives of 20 Indian military personnel.
He tweeted, “The Home Ministry has told Parliament that there has been no intrusion on Indo-China border in last 3 years. So Galwan did not happen, our soldiers did not die and the Chinese village in Arunachal is indeed built by BEIJING JANATA PARTY under PM Awas Yojna?”
While Pramanik’s response is concerned with “infiltration”, Kharge has tweeted about “intrusion”. Before verifying this information, FactChecker looked at what these terms mean.
Infiltration: Colonel Deepak Kumar, a research fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, defines infiltration as a “technique of tactical movement by small forces over land, air, or water through an area or territory occupied by friendly forces or an enemy, or in the close vicinity of enemy positions”.
“The movement is made at extended or irregular intervals,” according to Kumar. “The aim of infiltration could be of temporarily occupying a feature of tactical importance, or locating a force to attack an enemy position from an unexpected direction or isolating an enemy locality for an attack by a larger follow-up force. It is inherent while infiltrating in enemy territory or close to it that contact with the enemy is avoided”.
Transgression: “When a military body of troops goes into the other side of the border assuming that it is their own territory due to the difference in the perception of the border itself,” defined the officer, who was involved in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir as part of Operation Rakshak.
Intrusion: Using an open-source definition, Colonel Kumar explains that intrusion is the “movement of a unit or force or a military asset inside another nation’s specified operational area or territorial seas or territorial airspace for surveillance or intelligence gathering in times of peace, no war-no peace, or war. A characteristic feature of intrusion is that it is temporary in time and space and has to be vacated (or evicted)”.
The India-China border spans over 3,488 km, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’Annual Report 2019-’20. China also claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and has occupied approximately 38,000 sq km of Indian territory in Ladakh, said Minister of State for External Affairs Vellamvelly Muraleedharan in Lok Sabha on March 11, 2020. China is also in possession of 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir due to the China-Pakistan “Boundary Agreement” dated March 2, 1963, Muraleedharan told the lower house of Parliament.
However, there is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control in the border areas between India and China, said Shripad Naik, former Minister of State for Defence, on November 27, 2019. Naik also said that India and China both “have differing perceptions of LAC” and “due to both sides undertaking patrolling up to their respective perceptions of the LAC, transgressions do occur”.
Who is correct?
According to Pramanik, no cases of infiltration occurred along the India-China border in the last three years and Kharge contested that by bringing up Galwan violence, which he called a case of intrusion.
But, in a statement on September 15, 2020, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the Chinese violated the agreement they made with India on June 6, 2020, which was to abide by the premeditated Line of Actual Control. “China does not accept the customary and traditional alignment of the boundary between India and China” and that, as of September 15, 2020, there was “no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control in the border areas between India and China and there is no common perception of the entire LAC,” Singh told Lok Sabha.
The Union minister also mentioned the Galwan Valley violence and said there was a face-off between the two sides. “The Chinese side had taken action to hinder the normal, traditional patrolling pattern of our troops in the Galwan Valley area,” said Singh. While adding that while the situation was being addressed, as per the provisions of agreements between the two nations, he said, “Chinese side made several attempts to transgress the LAC in other parts of the Western Sector. This included Kongka La, Gogra and North Bank of Pangong Lake. These attempts were detected early and consequently responded to appropriately by our armed forces.”
Singh also explained the reason for the clash. “Given the growing friction along the Line of Actual Control, the Senior Commanders of the two sides in a meeting on June 6, 2020, agreed on a process of disengagement that involved reciprocal actions,” Singh said. “Both sides also agreed to respect and abide by the Line of Actual Control and not undertake any activity to alter the status quo. However, in violation of this the Chinese side created a violent face off on June 15 at Galwan. Our brave soldiers laid down their lives and also inflicted costs including casualties on the Chinese side”.
Former minister Naik had also told Lok Sabha in 2019 that between 2016 and 2018, there were 1,025 transgressions by the Chinese soldiers, with no casualties reported.
The definition, Singh’s statement and numbers presented by Naik altogether show that since both countries do not agree upon the LAC and there is a difference in perception of the border, the Chinese actions can be categorised as acts of transgressions and not intrusion or infiltration.
FactChecker tried contacting Pramanik, Kumar and Khagre for clarification, but while the office of Pramanik asked to be sent an email, the other two did not respond to calls. We have emailed all of them and this story will be updated as and when we receive a response.
This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.