NEW DELHI: Indian and Chinese army troops were involved in a face-off in Ladakh on Wednesday morning, the first since over a year and amid a dip in trust levels between the two nations after India took away special privileges to Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370.
Sources said an Indian Army patrol was moving in the northern bank of Pangong Tso, or lake, when Chinese troops objected to their presence. Many areas of the Pangong lake are disputed.
“On Wednesday morning there was a face-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA when they objected to our troop movement in the area,” a senior Army officer said. But the Indian Armymen stood their ground as they were within India’s territory, the officer added.
The two sides have since returned to their bases. This is the first face-off since July 2018, when the two nations’ troops confronted each other in Burtse in northern Ladakh after the Chinese built a temporary hut.
The officer said the Army had registered a complaint after Wednesday’s incident and asked for a border personnel meeting in Chushul-Moldo near the spot of the latest face-off.
Instances of transgressions and face-offs have come down in recent years. In its annual report of 2018-19, the defence ministry said the situation along the India-China border had remained peaceful.
“Compared to last year, the number of transgressions this year has considerably reduced. Concomitantly, the percentage of face-offs or aggressive interactions during these transgressions has also reduced this year,” the report said.
But a disturbing trend is that such incidents happen before any high-level contact between the two countries. The present face-off has taken place just a month before PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to hold an informal summit on Oct 10-12 at Mamallapuram near Chennai.
Last year, in between the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit in April and a meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai SCO summit in June, China transgressed into Indian territory 28 times. The transgressions included air violations by unmanned aerial vehicles and PLA troops entering into Indian territory.
The incident in Burtse in July 2018 took place ahead of the then Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Ladakh in September last year.
But the icy heights have remained largely incident-free since then, with both the sides agreeing to maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas. The two countries have identified about 10 vulnerable areas where there is a major difference of perception.
But India’s decision to abolish Article 370 and announce the constitution of Ladakh as a UT has since riled the Chinese. “China always opposes India’s inclusion of Chinese territory in the western section of the China-India boundary under its administrative jurisdiction,” the Chinese foreign ministry said a day after Article 370 was removed. China also backed Pakistan on Kashmir, stating that “the parties concerned should exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate the tension.”