In what may be the first documented clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers who have been piling up across the border between the two nations over the latest territorial dispute, Reuters reports that "Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in an altercation" in the western Himalayas on Tuesday, "further raising tensions between the two countries which are already locked in a two-month standoff in another part of the disputed border."
While there has been no official confirmation yet by either India or China, a Reuters source in New Delhi who was briefed on the military situation on the border, said Indian soldiers "foiled a bid by a group of Chinese troops to enter Indian territory in Ladakh, near the Pangong lake." He added that some of the Chinese soldiers carried iron rods and stones, and in the melee there were minor injuries on both sides, the source said.
"There was an altercation near the Pangong lake," said a police officer in Srinagar, the capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, under which the area falls. An army source in Srinagar, quoted by Reuters, spoke of an altercation following what he called a Chinese army "incursion in Pangong lake area". This fresh standoff at Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh comes in the backdrop of tensions between Indian and Chinese troops over Doklam plateau in Sikkim sector with the PLA skipping the ceremonial border meetings on Independence Day.
Pangong Tso Lake
Here are additional details from the Indian Express:
Amid strained ties over the Doklam standoff in the Sikkim sector, Indian and Chinese boat patrols clashed at the Pangong lake in Ladakh on Tuesday even as the People’s Liberation Army declined the Indian invitation to participate in ceremonial border meetings on the occasion of India’s Independence Day. This is the first time since 2005 that the PLA has declined to meet with their Indian counterpart.
Courtesy of the Indian newspaper, here is a breakdown of all that happened in the past 24 hours
1. Indian and Chinese boat patrols clashed with each other at Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh at 7:30 am near the Finger-6 part of the 135-km long lake, one-third of which is in Indian control and the rest under Chinese control. The brief standoff led to jostling and exchange of blows between soldiers of the two armies. No shots were fired though.
2. Sources told the Indian Express said at least 52 trucks belonging to the Chinese army were spotted parked on the road built by the Chinese on the side of the lake but they moved out by the evening. The Indian Army, however, refused to comment on the issue. Also Read: Indian, Chinese patrols clash on Ladakh lake, PLA skips Independence Day meets
3. This fresh standoff at Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh comes in the backdrop of tensions between Indian and Chinese troops over Doklam plateau in Sikkim sector with the PLA skipping the ceremonial border meetings on Independence Day.
4. For the first time since 2005, the ceremonial meeting with the troops of both sides was not held on August 15. Another ceremonial meeting, which used to be held on the Chinese side on August 1, the founding day of the PLA, was also not held this year.
5. Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a stand-off in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector for seven weeks now after Indian troops stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the disputed area. China claimed that they were constructing the road within their territory and has been demanding immediate pull-out of the Indian troops from the disputed Doklam plateau. New Delhi has expressed concern over the road building, apprehending that it may allow Chinese troops to cut India’s access to its northeastern states.
6. India has conveyed to the Chinese government that the road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for it. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.
7. Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim. China also claims that Thimphu has no dispute with Beijing over Doklam.
To summarize: soldiers of the world's two populous nations just got into a skrimish - luckily without shots fired for now - over a terrotorial dispute that is far from over, and if anything, is just beginning. As a reminder, the two armies are already engaged in a standoff in the Doklam plateau further east, in another part of their 3,500 km (2,175 mile) unmarked mountain border. As we reported on Friday, India had deployed even more troops to fortify existing positions, as China does the same, while raising the military "caution" level.
China has repeatedly asked India to unilaterally withdraw from the Doklam area, or else face the prospect of an escalation. As reported last month, Chinese state media warned India of a fate worse than its crushing defeat in a brief border war in 1962.
The latest standoff between China and India started in June when India sent troops to stop China building a road in the Doklam area, which is remote, uninhabited territory claimed by both China and India's ally Bhutan. New Delhi said it sent its troops because Chinese military activity in Doklam, near the trijunction of the borders of India, China and Bhutan, was a threat to the security of its own northeast region. But Beijing has said India had no role to play in the area and diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis have not made much headway.
An Indian government minister told Reuters efforts were continuing to find a way to end the standoff. The minister, "speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue" , said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had "no choice but to act to stop the Chinese road activity in the region because it had come too close for comfort."