Chinese troops 'threw stones' at Indian soldiers

'Minor incident' in Himalayas amid tensions between countries in another border area

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR • Indian and Chinese troops clashed briefly in a disputed area in the Himalayas, officials said yesterday, exacerbating tensions during a months-long stand-off between the two armies.

Chinese troops threw stones at Indian soldiers near Pangong Lake, a major tourist attraction in the picturesque mountain region of Ladakh on Tuesday, an Indian defence official said.

He said Chinese soldiers had twice tried to enter the Indian territory but had been pushed back.

The incident happened as the nations are locked in a tense stand-off in another border region.

"There was a minor incident. There was some stone-pelting from the Chinese side but the situation was quickly brought under control," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The brief confrontation was resolved after Indian and Chinese sides retreated to their respective positions, he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of the latest reports, but she added that "Chinese border troops are always committed to maintaining peace on the India- China border".

"We always patrol along the Chinese line of control. And we urge the Indian side to abide by the line of control and relevant conventions between the two sides," Ms Hua said.

Police in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Ladakh is located, said clashes were relatively common along the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control.

"These things happen every summer but this one was slightly prolonged and more serious but no weapons were used," a police source in Srinagar told AFP.

The Pangong lake area lies more than 4km high on the Tibetan plateau.

The latest incident comes amid an ongoing dispute between the two sides over a strategic Himalayan plateau thousands of kilometres away, where hundreds of Indian and Chinese soldiers have been facing off against each other for more than two months.

The border trouble began in June, when Chinese soldiers started to extend a road through the Doklam territory - known as "Donglang" in Chinese. The area is disputed between China and Bhutan.

India, a close ally of Bhutan, then deployed troops to stop the construction project, prompting Beijing to accuse India of trespassing on Chinese soil.

China has said India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation takes place.

India said both sides should withdraw their forces together. The plateau is strategically significant as it gives China access to the so-called "Chicken's Neck" - a thin strip of land connecting India's north-eastern states with the rest of the country.

Indian media said the Chinese army had this year declined to participate in ceremonial meetings, usually held to mark India's Independence Day, which was on Tuesday.

It was the first time since 2005 that the meetings were not held.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese troops 'threw stones' at Indian soldiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe