Indian, Chinese Forces Skirmish at Himalayan Border, Indian Sources Say
Indian and Chinese troops have clashed in a melee using stones and iron rods in the latest episode of a two-month military standoff at the disputed border between India and China in the Himalayas.
The some 3,500 km (2,175 mile)-long unmarked mountain border between China and India has been a matter of dispute since the Indian Declaration of independence from the British Empire in 1947.
That has been even more so the case after the 1959 anti-Chinese Uprising in Tibet, after which India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama.
In October-November 1962, Chinese forces prevailed over India’s troops in the brief Sino-Indian War fought at very high altitudes in the mountainous border regions.
Indian and Chinese forces have presently been locked in a standoff since June 16, 2017, after Chinese troops with road construction equipment started to move south into the Doklam area in the Sikkim section. India and Bhutan consider Doklam and Sikkim to be Bhutanese territory.
On June 18, 2017, around 270 Indian troops with weapons and two bulldozers, entered Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from constructing a road.
Bhutan has had a friendship treaty with India since 1949, which was updated in 2007. Doklam is a disputed territory between Bhutan and China.
According to Bhutan, the two have a written agreement that Doklam in the Sikkim section is not to be encroached upon by either until the dispute gets settled.
India has accused China of violating the agreement in question by trying to build a road in Doklam, while China has accused India of entering its territory illegally.
A total of 220 kilometers out of the total of 3,488-kilometer-long India – China border stretching from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh falls in Sikkim.
Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in a skirmish in the Western Himalayas on Tuesday, Reuters reported citing Indian sources.
It notes that the incident has raised further the tensions between the two countries which are already locked in a two-month standoff in another part of the disputed border.
A source in New Delhi, who had been briefed on the military situation on the border, said soldiers foiled a bid by a group of Chinese troops to enter Indian territory in Ladakh, near the Pangong lake.
Some of the Chinese soldiers carried iron rods and stones, and the melee caused minor injuries on both sides, the source said.
China’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to request for comment. The Indian military has declined to comment on the incident.
China and India have frequently accused each other of intrusions into each other’s territories, but clashes are rare.
“There was an altercation near the Pangong lake,” said a police officer in Srinagar, the capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state, which includes the area in question.
An army source in Srinagar also spoke of an altercation following what he called a Chinese army “incursion in Pangong lake area”.
The armies of China and India are already engaged in a standoff in the Doklam plateau further east, in another part of their 3,500 km (2,175 mile) unmarked mountain border.
China has repeatedly asked India to unilaterally withdraw from the Doklam area, or else face the prospect of an escalation. Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than its crushing defeat in the brief border war in 1962.
The trouble started in June when India sent troops to stop China building a road in the Doklam area, which is remote, uninhabited territory claimed by both China and India’s ally Bhutan.
New Delhi said it sent its troops because Chinese military activity in Doklam, near the trijunction of the borders of India, China and Bhutan, was a threat to the security of its own northeast region.
Beijing, however, has declared that India had no role to play in the area and diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis have not made much headway.
An Indian government minister, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had no choice but to act to stop the Chinese road activity in the region because it had come too close for comfort.
China said on Wednesday that it was not aware of the reports of People’s Liberation Army soldiers entering Indian territory along the banks of the Pangong lake in Ladakh and maintained that it was committed to peace and tranquillity along the border, Indian news agency PTI reported.
“I am not aware of the information I can tell you that the Chinese border troops are always committed to maintain peace and tranquillity of the India-China border,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said when asked to comment on the incident.
“We always patrol in the Chinese side along the Line of Actual Control. We urge the Indian side to abide by the LAC (Line of Actual Control) and relevant conventions between the two sides,” she added.
Special Representatives of China and India have held 19 rounds of talks to resolve the boundary issue.
Asked whether there is any progress to resolve the standoff at the Doklam area in the Sikkim section which has now entered the third month, Hua reiterated China’s stand that Indian troops illegally trespassed into Chinese territory and they should unconditionally withdraw.
“This is pre-condition for any meaningful talks between the two sides,” she said.
However, China has been acknowledging that talks are on through the diplomatic channels to discuss the issue.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Got Nukes, Mr. Dictator? You Hold on to Them!“, among other books.