India general warns border face-off with China may escalate

NEW DELHI • India's top military commander has said that a tense border stand-off with Chinese forces in the western Himalayas could spark a larger conflict, even as senior commanders from both sides met near the front line for their eighth round of talks.

Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said yesterday that the situation was tense at the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border, in eastern Ladakh, where thousands of Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a months-long confrontation.

"We will not accept any shifting of the Line of Actual Control," General Rawat said in an online address.

"In the overall security calculus, border confrontations, transgressions and unprovoked tactical military actions spiralling into a larger conflict cannot therefore be discounted," he said.

Brutal hand-to-hand combat in June left 20 Indian and an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers dead, escalating tensions and triggering large deployments in the remote, desolate border area.

Both sides have since attempted to ease the situation through diplomatic and military channels, but have made little headway, leaving soldiers facing off in sub-zero temperatures in Ladakh's snow deserts.

Senior Indian and Chinese commanders were meeting yesterday in Ladakh in the eighth round of talks between the military leaderships since the crisis began, officials in New Delhi said.

The talks would likely include discussions on a Chinese proposal to pull some troops back from a contested area on the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake, where soldiers are separated by a few hundred metres, according to an Indian official.

Infantry troops, backed by artillery and armoured vehicles, are also facing off on the southern bank of the lake, where China has been pushing India to pull back, the official said.

Gen Rawat also warned that India may have to reckon with twin conflicts - with Pakistan and China - at the same time, along its western and northern borders.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2020, with the headline 'India general warns border face-off with China may escalate'. Subscribe