Explained: Why China wants control of Yangtse area in Tawang
Major General Sudhakar Jee (Retd), who commanded a brigade in the Tawang sector and was responsible for the security of the border there, talks about the importance of the Yangtse area in Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang sector that saw clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on December 9
The Yangtse area in Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang sector saw clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on December 9. However, this was not the first time that troops from the two countries clashed in the area. There were minor skirmishes in the area in October 2021. In fact, stand-offs between the two armed forces are a routine affair.
So what makes the Yangtse area so important strategically that China wants to control it by altering the status quo at the Line of Actual Control? According to Major General Sudhakar Jee (Retd), who commanded a brigade in the Tawang sector and was responsible for the security of the border there, "China has been claiming the Yangtse area as its own for quite some time. This area was occupied by Indian troops as a quid pro quo to Chinese intrusion in Wangdung (Sumdorong Chu) in 1986-87."
Talking about the importance of the area, Major General Sudhakar (Retd) first talked about its spiritual importance for Tibetans across the LAC.
He said, "The area is not only a grazing ground but also adjoins a holy waterfall that Tibetans from the Chinese side of the LAC worship. The Tawang monastery is the second-largest monastery after the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The 6th Dalai Lama was from Tawang. There is a geographical, socio-ethnic, and cultural continuity of Tawang with the people across."
Major General Sudhakar (Retd) also gave an insight into the economic importance of the area. He said, "This area is also known to grow naturally a rare kind of aphrodisiac with very high value and cost in the international market. Naturally, the Chinese would like to benefit from it."
On the area's importance militarily, the veteran general said, "Militarily speaking, this area would provide the shortest aerial distance to dominate the Sela Pass on the Indian side. Since the infrastructure development is going on at full speed on India's side, connecting with the troops in the forward areas, including a tunnel under the Sela Pass nearing completion, it could be a reason for the recent Army-PLA clash there."
He further said, "Such face-offs must be seen in the light of (Chinese President) Xi Jinping's articulated new doctrine of 'fighting to win local wars', completion of 628 border villages with incentives extended to the civilians, etc. The third term for Xi, having been approved by the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October this year, will mean China’s aggressive posturing along the LAC will continue to increase."