Indian troops on Tuesday foiled two incursion bids by the Chinese in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region but not before stones were thrown and soldiers injured on both sides as India celebrated 70 years of Independence. The clash near the Pangong Lake, which divides Indian and Chinese territory, comes at a time when the two neighbours are in a standoff thousands of miles away in the disputed Doklam plateau close to Sikkim on India’s northeastern border. The two-month-old row has soured ties between the two sides, with China accusing India of trespass.
“Indian and Chinese troops came face to face at two places in Finger Four and Finger Five areas near Pangong Lake in Ladakh region,” a government source said.
Finger Four is almost 5km into Indian territory from the line of actual control (LAC), manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. When Indian troops told the Chinese to retreat, words were exchanged and then a scuffle broke out. “Stones were thrown at each other, resulting in injuries to troops from both sides after which finally the Chinese forces retreated,” the source said. The nature of injuries and number of soldiers involved could not be confirmed. The troops “disengaged” after an hour and the Chinese patrol went back, sources said.
The incursion bids were made between 6am and 9am. The ITBP was not available for comments and the army refused to speak on the clash. The LAC, or the unmarked border, divides Indian and Chinese territories where the boundaries are not clearly defined.
The Pangong area is prone to such face-offs as two-thirds of the lake is under Chinese control. Normally things are brought under control after showing banners to the Chinese side, telling them they are in Indian territory. There, however, have been occasions when the Chinese refused to leave, leading to an impasse, sources said.
Difference of perception over the territory leads to around 400 such skirmishes every year from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
“If this has indeed happened in Pangong Tso, it is a fallout of the Doklam standoff,” former northern army commander lieutenant general BS Jaswal said. The best way forward for China would be to not “get into a kinetic option or war” but to create pressure, it could try and occupy vulnerable and disputed areas, Jaswal said.
The Indian Army has moved soldiers and equipment along the eastern sector to fortify its defences amid the Doklam standoff. China skipped the customary border personnel meeting to mark India’s Independence Day. The army has reworked the schedule of Operation Alert, a two-week training exercise conducted by Siliguri-based HQs 33 Corps that involves familiarising troops with the areas they may be required to operate in. Scheduled for early October, the exercise kicked off in the eastern sector in early August.
Sources in the army have rubbished reports in the Chinese media that it ordered the evacuation of a frontier Sikkim village near Doklam, which is claimed by both Beijing and Bhutan. The Chinese, which accused India of preventing it soldiers from building a road, have taken an aggressive stand and even warned of a war. Bhutan and India maintain that Doklam, or Donglang as the Chinese call it, is a Bhutanese territory. The road, if built, would have serious implications for India’s security, says New Delhi. There was more neighbour trouble for India as Pakistani troops violated ceasefire, targeting two places along the line of control in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, injuring a woman.
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