India, China clash again over border movements in Ladakh

They accuse each other of incursion into southern bank of lake in region

Tensions between India and China have flared anew with the Indian Army saying it thwarted an advance by Chinese troops along the banks of a lake that straddles both countries.

Both countries blamed each other for the incursion.

The confrontation, according to the Indian Army, took place on the southern bank of the picturesque Pangong Tso lake, which stretches from Tibet to Ladakh, an area that has been a major source of friction. One-third of the lake lies in India and the rest in China, according to the official website of the Ladakh union territory.

A source with knowledge of the matter on the Indian side said Chinese troops were moving to capture a higher vantage point to gain a dominant position on the southern bank of the 135km lake.

The Indian army, in an official statement, blamed the Chinese side for raising tensions and carrying out "provocative military movements".

However, a spokesman for the Western Theatre Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Colonel Zhang Shuili, accused the Indian Army of illegally crossing the border and asked it to withdraw to "avoid further escalation of the situation".

In an official statement, Indian Army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand, said: "On the night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing stand-off in eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.

"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 the ground."

A brigade commander level flag meeting is in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues, the statement said.

Many parts of the undemarcated border in the area between the two countries are the subject of dispute.

Tensions have flared up occasionally but the situation deteriorated considerably this year, culminating in a clash on June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. The Chinese did not release casualty figures after the clash in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh.

Military and diplomatic talks between the two are ongoing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian yesterday said that PLA border troops had never crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and that both sides were engaged in consultations through diplomatic and military channels.

India views the current border flare-up as the worst since 1962, when it went to war with China.

"We have a very large number of Chinese forces and, frankly, we are at a loss," Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar told the Hindustan Times. "I accept there are some differences in perceptions in the LAC. But there is again a clear understanding that neither side will attempt to unilaterally change the status quo."

The border issue has affected the economic relationship between the two Asian giants, with India moving to introduce additional rules for Chinese firms and to restrict their growth in areas such as telecommunications and power. China is India's largest trading partner and bilateral trade hit US$92.68 billion (S$126.1 billion) last year.

Many analysts believe the two countries are still far apart and that the situation remains dangerous.

"There is heavy deployment on either side. A spark would be detrimental for the situation along the border. I would say this is a very delicate, fragile and volatile situation, which can explode if it is not handled at the highest level," said Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor B. R. Deepak.

"The diplomatic and military solution may not be the way to resolve the situation, it needs intervention at the highest level. I think Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping need to activate the hotline. This has to be seen in tandem with the deteriorating relations in the field of trade and commerce," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2020, with the headline India, China clash again over border movements in Ladakh. Subscribe