Will Trump’s ‘troop surge’ in Afghanistan bleed over into Indian stand-off with China?

There are intelligence indications and warnings that President Trump’s “troop surge” in Afghanistan may also include the deployment of U.S. special warfare troops to the Indian side of the Chinese border. Currently, Indian and Chinese troops are facing off in a dangerous game of brinkmanship in three regions of the Himalayan range: the tri-border Dokalam Pass between China, the Indian state of Sikkim, and Bhutan; the Lipulekh Pass between the Indian state of Uttarakhand, Nepal, and China; and the Pangong Lake area of Ladakh in the territory of Kashmir, sovereignty over which is disputed between India, China, and Pakistan. The Pangong Lake stand-off resulted in a rock throwing spree between Chinese and Indian border troops last week.

The small armed forces of Bhutan are also involved in the Dokalam stand-off on the side of India. Since 1949, India has served as the protecting power over Bhutan, but a recent offer of $10 billion in Chinese economic aid to Bhutan has the kingdom thinking twice about its relationship with India.

Pentagon and CIA propaganda machinery are already citing China as the aggressor in all three Himalayan flash points, not surprising since the Trump administration has made hostility toward China a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Trump also has a friendly, albeit cautious, relationship with Indian right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trump and Modi share the goal of ensuring China’s ambitious “One Belt One Road” global economic initiative remains a pipe dream.

The word among diplomats in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, is that India would not have dared to stand up to China militarily without guarantees of American military support. That support is rumored to be included as a covert part of the U.S. troop “surge” in nearby Afghanistan. Moreover, Japan, a U.S. ally, has thrown its support behind Bhutan and India in the Dokalam stand-off with China.

U.S. Special Forces personnel are no strangers to the Sino-Indian border area. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operatives, as well as National Security Agency (NSA) signals intelligence personnel, conducted missions on behalf of the Indian side during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. NSA established special remotely-operated SIGINT stations along the Himalayan range that were trained on China. One such station was installed on Mount Everest in Nepal. The 1962 war saw China make substantial territorial gains against the Indians. Since 2001, U.S. Special Forces commandos have received special jungle warfare training at the Indian Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Vairengte in the state of Mizoram in northeastern India and at the Kaziranga Special Jungle Warfare Training School in the state of Assam. The U.S. and India have held the joint “Vajraprahar” (“Lightning Strike”) Exercise at the school in Mizoram.

There are reports out of Nepal that U.S. military personnel now have a clandestine presence at the four Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) checkpoints along the Sino-Indian frontier. These are located at Chushul in Ladakh, the site of the recent rock throwing incident; Nathu La Pass in Sikkim, the most heavily-garrisoned border crossing in the world; Bum La Pass in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, the site of a major Tibetan monastery loyal to the exile Dalai Lama of Tibet; and Lipulekh Pass in the India-China-Nepal tri-junction. Recently, these BPMs have become as hostile a rendezvous location as the Panmunjom demilitarized zone facility that brings U.S. and South Korean military personnel face-to-face with their North Korean counterparts.

The Chinese are upset that beginning on September 14, U.S. and Indian military forces will begin the joint YUDH ABHYAS 2016 exercise in Uttarakhand, not far from the contentious Lipulekh Pass tri-junction. The exercise may see U.S. forces come within eyesight range of Chinese border forces. The exercise, the twelfth between India and the U.S., is under the control of the U.S. Central Command, which also has jurisdiction over military operations in Afghanistan.

In 2008, WMR visited Nepal and Sikkim. Sikkim was illegally invaded and annexed by India in 1975. Since that time, India has required foreigners to obtain a special permit to visit the strategic state on the Tibetan border. Foreigners are strictly prohibited from areas close to the Chinese border. WMR succeeded in peering into Sikkim where the multi-billion dollar CNN network failed. The network’s India correspondent was ejected from Sikkim in April 2008 after he reported on allegations of corruption surrounding Sikkim’s chief minister. I traveled successfully and without incident to Sikkim, not brandishing journalist credentials, but traveling as a simple tourist operating under the guise of authoring a cookbook on Himalayan cuisine. Incidentally, Himalayan food, especially Bhutanese, is not recommended if one is unable to deal with fiery spicy-hot flavors.

Our October 14, 2008, report from Gangtok, Sikkim detailed the activities of a New York-based firm and suspected CIA front, Star Universal Resource Company, to build a highway and tunnel expressway from Sevoke, Sikkim through Gangtok to the Chinese border at the Nathu La Pass. Many Sikkimese said they had never heard of the company and some suspected it was linked to the CIA.

One thing is for certain: American intelligence and military personnel stand out like sore thumbs along the entire stretch of the Himalayas. An obvious U.S. military group, including American wives and children of some of the men, spotted by WMR on the walking street in Gangtok in October 2008, could have been in any city, including Seoul or Frankfurt, having a large American military presence. The question remains, however, what has the U.S. military been doing in Sikkim and elsewhere along the 4,056-kilometer Sino-Indian border?

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2017 WayneMadenReport.com

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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