Tensions simmer along LAC as India, China step up vigil
Tensions continue to simmer in Ladakh and Sikkim sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where India and China have deployed additional troops, days after scores of Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in a tense face-off along the India-China boundary.
People familiar with developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said both sides have deployed additional troops, especially in Galwan Valley region of the Ladakh sector. India bolstered troop levels after the Chinese side brought in reinforcements, they said. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has pitched close to 100 tents and erected temporary positions in Galwan Valley as part of efforts to establish a presence there, the people said. It has also strengthened its presence in the area opposite Demchok, they said.
Responding to a question from Hindustan Times, China’s foreign ministry, in a statement in Mandarin, said the Indian Army was “obstructing normal patrols and operations of Chinese border troops”. While there was no official word from the India side on Tuesday, the external affairs ministry previously said it remained committed to maintaining peace along the border with China and noted that such incidents could have been avoided if there was a common perception about the boundary.
Tensions flared after scores of soldiers from the two countries clashed near Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh on the night of May 5-6, while about 150 soldiers were involved in another standoff in north Sikkim on May 9. Several soldiers from both sides were injured in these confrontations.
The people cited above said there had been no more confrontations after both sides activated border management mechanisms but the situation continues to be tense, especially in Galwan Valley. The Indian Army responded to the Chinese build-up by deploying additional troops, they added.
“In the past, the Chinese side usually patrolled this area but now they’re entrenched in the region,” said one of the people cited above. The face-off began after the Chinese side objected to the construction of a road, north of Pangong lake, located well within Indian territory, he added.
The statement from China’s foreign ministry said: “China’s position on the China-India border issue is consistent and clear. The Chinese border troops are committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity in the China-India border areas and have exercised great restraint.”
The troops, the statement said, “will firmly safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and security”.
The tensions with China come against the backdrop of an escalating India-Nepal border row. Nepal has protested against India’s construction of an 80-km road leading to Lipulekh, which is claimed by Kathmandu. New Delhi has rejected the protest and said the road, built to facilitate pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar in China, is “completely within the territory of India”. Nepal was also irked when Indian Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, without naming China, said Kathmandu was protesting against the road at someone else’s behest.
China’s state-run Global Times daily reported that the troop deployments in Galwan Valley constituted the “strongest military response to India’s illegal trespassing incident along the border since the Doklam standoff”. The 73-day faceoff at Doklam in 2017 took bilateral ties to a fresh low and relations were put on an even keel only after the first India-China informal summit at Wuhan in 2018.
A second person familiar with developments said the strategic guidance from the top leadership of both sides for better management of the border did not appear to have percolated to the ground level on the Chinese side. Last week, the Indian Army chief Navarane described border face-offs as “temporary and short”