China opens new front in Ladakh

Amid Dokhlam standoff, Chinese and Indian soldiers resort to stone-pelting on banks of Pangong lake in Leh; Things calm after meeting at Chusul, claims army

ABID BASHIR
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 16 2017 11:35PM | Updated Date: Aug 17 2017 1:28AM
China opens new front in LadakhFile Photo

Day after a skirmish between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh, army officers from both countries held a Border Personnel Meeting at Chusul on Wednesday to “sort out differences.”

The meeting, a source said, discussed recent incidents and issues to ensure “strengthening of existing mechanisms for maintaining peace and tranquility.”

Two soldiers had sustained minor injuries after both sides exchanged stones on August 15, the source in army said, adding that the issue has been sorted out and things are calm now. An army officer said the issue has been resolved in a flag meeting and there is “nothing more to it now.” He refused to elaborate further.

A senior army official posted in Udhampur-based northern command said, “Chinese troops tried to enter Indian terrain on Tuesday (August 15) when our soldiers were celebrating Independence Day.”

“The incident occurred along the banks of Pangong Lake, a popular tourist attraction on the Indian side of the border in Ladakh,” the officer said.

He said the standoff lasted for about two hours in which no arms were used. “The situation was brought under control after a drill which saw both sides holding up banners proclaiming their rights over the disputed area before stepping back to their respective positions,” the officer said.

He said the personnel of Indo-Tibetan Border Police which patrols the border along with the army carried a flag showing a message to their Chinese counterparts: “This area belongs to us, please go back.”   “But the Chinese soldiers refused,” he said.

The source in army said almost 15 Chinese soldiers had crossed into Indian territory. “Despite repeated warnings, they refused to retreat, resulting in heavy stone pelting on the both sides,” he said.

An army official said that Chinese soldiers were armed with high-speed interceptor boats, bought from the US, which can accommodate nearly 15 soldiers and were equipped with radars, infra-red and GPS systems.

Last time, it was in 2013, when Chinese army was intercepted by Indian patrols.

Pertinently, India and China are already exchanging a tough talk over Dokhlam standoff in Sikkim region.

 

IANS ADDS

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and Army officials in Delhi refused to comment on the incident but did not deny it either.

"This is not a subject on which the government normally makes a comment," the Defence Minister said in Delhi.

Chinese officials on the other hand said they were not aware of the Ladakh incident, saying border troops always patrol on the Chinese side along the LAC. Beijing also asked New Delhi to abide by the LAC.

"I am not aware of them. The Chinese border troops are always committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along the border," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing.

"We always patrol on the Chinese side along the Line of Actual Control. And we urge the India side to abide by the Line of Actual Control," she said.

On the Doklam standoff, China again told India to pull back its troops from the trijunction area. The standoff began on June 16 when the Indian Army stopped Chinese border troops from building a road in the plateau claimed by China and Bhutan.

"As for the trespass of Indian troops in Doklam area, China's position is firm and consistent - that is Indian border troops must be withdrawn unconditionally and this is a precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides," Hua said.

India has said it was ready to pull back troops if China does so too, an offer Beijing has outrightly rejected.

This is the longest military standoff between India and China after 1987 when both sides faced-off in Somordong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh.

The latest crisis has plunged ties between the two countries to a new low.

With no sign of resolution, the dispute is likely to cloud the crucial BRICS summit meet in September, which could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending.