India and China have heightened surveillance and security along the 3,488km boundary the two countries share, with border guards stocking up supplies for the dreary Himalayan winter.
The preparations stem from the 72-day standoff between the two armies on the Doklam plateau off east Bhutan this summer.
The armies disengaged on August 28, but a move to establish a hotline between the director general military operations (DGMO) in India and the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) of China hasn’t received any encouraging response from Beijing.
Given the uncertainty, Indian border troops are keeping a watchful eye.
For its part, the PLA is said to be bringing reinforcements to its territory close to the disputed Doklam area.
But top South Block sources said the situation in Doklam is stable and both sides are stocked up to sit out the winter.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) guards the Chinese frontier from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, backed by the army. ITBP chief Ranjit Pachnanda will fly to the Northeast this week to review the winter supplies for his frontline troops.
Diplomatically, the two Asian giants are engaged in a “special representative” dialogue to resolve their long border dispute. Talks between Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi and Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval is due this December-end in New Delhi.
“The dates for state councilor Yang’s special representative talks are still to be proposed from the Indian side,” a Chinese diplomatic source said.
The two countries reiterated a resolve to maintain peace and tranquillity along the boundary at the November 17 meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India China Border Affairs.
But the Indian proposal for a DGMO-level hotline was resisted by the PLA representative.
South Block officials said the Chinese are more comfortable with communication at the local commander level, rather than between Indian Army and PLA headquarters.
The PLA is apparently worried that misunderstanding could crop up in times of crisis as the communication process between PLA headquarters and its Western Theatre Command, based in Chengdu, was slow.
The Indians sought a DGMO-level hotline to ensure no PLA commander unilaterally played Rambo, as suspicions persist that the Doklam standoff was triggered by an area officer and may not have the sanction of the top brass.