A glacier burst in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, close to the India-China border, has put the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) on high alert.
In February, a similar glacier disaster occurred in the same area, triggering speculation about possible sabotage by the Chinese.
According to reports, at least eight people have died in the latest incident that took place on Friday night whereas the Indian Army has rescued around 384 people. The bad weather conditions and road blockades led to the delay in the search and rescue operation.
The water level in the Rishi Ganga River has risen by two feet as a result of the glacier burst, according to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
The incident took place due to the heavy rainfall in the region and the Border Road Organization (BRO) is trying to reach out to the workers involved in the road construction in the area. The ITBP personnel deployed in the area are reported to be safe.
ITBP is India’s federal force tasked with guarding the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border that divides India and China.
The China Angle?
In February this year, at least 15 people were killed and more than 150 found missing after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off triggering massive floods and devastation in the Chamoli district.
The incident also caused extensive damage to two hydroelectric projects.
Interestingly, International Business Times published a report claiming that China could be behind the February glacier disaster. Without naming Beijing, the report said “some Indian defense scientists think the glacier burst could have been a sabotage”.
It implied that “glacial lakes can be breached through remote-controlled explosions, with an aim to hit India’s infrastructure in the border areas”.
However, China’s state-media Global Times refuted the allegation. It quoted a Chinese expert as saying that Indian military construction has damaged the ecological environment in the region, leading to such disasters.
“The glacier breaks in India last week could not have been caused by China sabotaging nearby infrastructure. Instead, the Indian military has built several military installations in the area, which has exacerbated the melting of the glacier,” Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The suspicion about China’s involvement in the glacier incident was fuelled by the Ladakh border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops, although there was no concrete proof to validate such a theory.
Another controversy that broke out in November last year was that Chinese PLA soldiers had used laser weapons against Indian soldiers during the skirmishes at the Ladakh border.
Ironically, a Chinese expert — Deputy Dean of the School of International Relations of the Renmin University of China — had floated this theory. India, which initially denied this report as “fake news”, later admitted that the Chinese PLA had indeed used “unorthodox weapons” along the LAC.