Indian troops clashed with Chinese soldiers last week in a border skirmish and prevented the latter from entering the Indian border. The skirmishes led to injuries on both sides, said Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, seen at such scale for the first time since the two Asian powers clashed in 2020.
The clash broke out on December 9 in the Tawang sector of India’s northeastern Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is situated at the southern borders of China and is also claimed by it.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) blamed the Indian side for blocking their routine activities. A spokesperson from the Western Theatre Command of PLA claimed on Tuesday that Indian soldiers “illegally crossed the line to block” a routine patrol of Chinese border troops.
He said, “We urge the Indian side to strictly control and restrain the front-line troops, and work with China to maintain peace and security on the border.”
An Indian defence source told the British news agency Reuters that both the patrolling teams came across each other at one of the peaks there and that in the following fistfight, a portion of soldiers fell on the hard surface and injured themselves. Two other sources said close to half a dozen Indian army men suffered minor injuries.
The sources also said the notional demarcation of the territories of India and China, called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), suggests that soldiers from both sides sometimes cross their own border and come over into other’s territory. Such incidents are then discussed in flag meetings in order to prevent these.
India’s Defence Minister claims Chinese transgression
The source said, “Sometimes we perceive some areas as ours, sometimes they do.” Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had previously stated in parliament regarding an attempt by the PLA to barge inside the Indian territory.
Rajnath Singh in his statement said, “These are skirmishes that keep happening, and they are not major. This was not major.” He also told the parliamentarians that the clash resulted in “injuries to a few personnel on both sides” and also claimed that no “serious casualties on our side”.
He further said, “PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in the Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo.”
“The Chinese attempt was contested by our troops in a firm and resolute manner. The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into our territory and compelled them to return to their posts.”
The Defence Minister said the Chinese troops were asked to not repeat such activities and that the matter had been discussed with China diplomatically.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told a news conference the situation at the border was “generally stable”.
The US State Department confirmed that it was narrowly observing the situation. At a routine news briefing, its spokesperson Ned Price said India was a crucial strategic partner for the US and it was “glad to hear that both sides appear to have quickly disengaged from the clashes.”
Ned Price said, “We do strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims by incursions, military or civilian, across the border.” He added, “We encourage India and China to utilize existing bilateral channels to discuss disputed boundaries.”
The clash was the first since lethal clashes in June 2020 when Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a physical fight in the Northern Indian territory of Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, adjacent to the Chinese-held Tibetan plateau.
The 2020 clashes resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops.
Foreign Minister of India, S Jaishankar stated in clear terms that relations with China can not become normal unless peace is maintained on the border.
In spite of an increase in imports from China over the past two years, India has increased inspection of several Chinese businesses doing business there.
Prior to the hostilities two years ago, the undefined 3,800 km (2,360 miles) border between the two nuclear-armed Asian superpowers had remained relatively calm since a war in 1962.