NEW DELHI -- Indian troops foiled an attempt by Chinese troops to encroach over the disputed and ill-defined border in the western Himalayas, the Indian army said on Monday, in a fresh flare-up between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Pre-emptive action by the Indian troops was enough to deter the Chinese troops, and the confrontation did not escalate into a clash between the two sides, an Indian military official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.
China rejected any breach of the border by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops, but tensions between the two armies in the freezing snow deserts of the Ladakh region have been running high for several months.
The latest incident occurred on Saturday night on the shores of Pangong Tso lake, where the two sides have been locked in a faceoff since April, the Indian army said.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed during a clash in the nearby Galwan valley, in what was the most serious military clash between the two Asian giants in more than half a century, after which both sides had agreed to pull back.
“On the night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo,” the Indian army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand said in a statement.
The statement said Indian soldiers foiled the Chinese bid to “unilaterally change facts on the ground.” There was no word of casualties, or details of how any incursion was thwarted.
The clash in the Galwan valley in June had involved hand-to-hand fighting, as both sides observed a protocol to refrain from using firearms on the disputed border.
China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations made by India.
Chinese border troops “always strictly abide by the Line of Actual Control, and never cross the line”, spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing, referring to the de facto border.
Both sides are in communication regarding the situation on the ground, he said.
In recent months, India has accused Chinese troops of stealthily crossing the border, and building defence structures. Beijing has responded with counter claims, accusing Indian frontier guards of provocative actions.
But despite several rounds of talks after the bloody clash in the Galwan Valley, troops are facing off at other points along the border, including the northern shore of Pangong Tso lake which both claim in full.
The latest incident is likely to stoke further anxiety in New Delhi that China is digging its heels on the border, experts say.
“India has been trying to downplay the intrusions since May in the hope that talks will lead to an resolution. But this has only encouraged China,” Brahma Chellaney, an expert on India-China ties, said.
The Indian army said the latest flare-up took place along southern shore of the lake in an escalation of the conflict.Troops were mobilised to stop the Chinese from extending their control over the area in violation of an agreement to reduce tensions, a source in New Delhi said.
“Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground,” spokesman Anand said.
India and China fought a war in 1962 over their competing territorial claims, and the two Asian giants have been unable to agree a permanent border along their frontier of nearly 3,500 km (2,000 mile).
Military officials of the two countries were holding a meeting at a border point to resolve the latest crisis, the Indian army said.