New Delhi: The border tensions between India and China flared up once again Wednesday after troops on both sides engaged in a scuffle in the Ladakh region. Additional forces had to be called in. The situation was defused, and the soldiers “disengaged”, only after talks between senior military officers from both sides, ThePrint has learnt.
Indian Army sources said the scuffle ensued when a patrol party, comprising nearly 12 soldiers, was stopped by Chinese troops near the northern bank of the 134-km-long Pangong Tso early Wednesday morning. Two-thirds of the lake, which extends from Tibet to Ladakh, is controlled by China.
Soldiers on both sides then radioed in for additional support and more troops reached the location shortly. The face-off continued until late evening.
The incident rang alarm bells in the defence circles in New Delhi as it came just a month ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to India for an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
To prevent the situation from spiralling into a major confrontation, the Army activated the established bilateral mechanism for defusing such situations.
“Delegation level talks were held at the Brigadier level yesterday. The situation has been de-escalated and soldiers have completely disengaged from both sides,” said a senior Army officer at the force’s headquarters in the national capital.
“The incident occurred due to differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There are established mechanisms to resolve such occurrences,” added the officer.
The border personnel meeting took place in Chushul-Moldo, near the face-off spot.
In 2017, the disputed ‘Finger-5 to Finger-8’ area on the north bank of Pangong Tso had seen a violent clash on Independence Day. At the time, soldiers from both sides used stones and rods to hit out at each other after a face-off took place between two patrolling parties.
The incident occurred at a time when soldiers from India and China were engaged in an explosive confrontation in Bhutan’s Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.
Though the two armies disengaged from the Doklam site after a 73-day stand-off, the Chinese continue to have permanent military structures and troops in that area.
The latest incident has come just a month after the Modi government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir to create two new union territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The move to create the Union Territory of Ladakh has upset the Chinese, which claims the area.
“China always opposes India’s inclusion of Chinese territory in the western section of the China-India boundary under its administrative jurisdiction,” the Chinese foreign ministry had said on 6 August, a day after the Indian government’s action.