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Pelting of stones by Chinese, Indian troops in Ladakh region surprises officials

A file photo of Army patrol teams being briefed along the Line of Actual Control with China.

A file photo of Army patrol teams being briefed along the Line of Actual Control with China.   | Photo Credit: Dinakar Peri

While standoffs in the Ladakh region between Indian and Chinese troops are almost routine in the summer months, what surprised officials was the pelting of stones by the two sides on Independence Day.

A day after the incident, the two sides held a flag meeting at the Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point at Chushul in eastern Ladakh.

One ITBP man sustained head injuries, according to officials who briefed The Hindu about the dramatic standoff that began around 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

The pelting of stones took place when the two sides were retreating after a face-off at Finger Four and Finger Five near Pangong Lake on August 15. The standoffs lasted half-an-hour each.

The scuffle at Finger Four took place at 6 a.m., and the one at Finger Five at 7.30 a.m. The two sides took positions and the situation was defused by 9 a.m., officials said.

A top government source said the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh has been deteriorating since April.

There have been occasional scuffles and jostling among the troops in recent weeks, and on a few occasions there have been fisticuffs. “Incidents and issues to ensure strengthening of the existing mechanism for maintaining peace and tranquillity were discussed,” an Army source said.

One-third of the lake is controlled by India and two-thirds by China though each side has claims over the remaining part.

Incursion attempts

“Every month, there are two to three incursion attempts in the Finger area,” said an official.

Of the 135 km-long lake, 45 km is with India and 90 km with China. The mountains sloping on the sides of the river form finger-like structures. As per this, India holds till Finger Four but claims till Finger 8, while China holds from Finger 8 beyond but claims till Finger Four. So to enforce their claims each side regularly patrols till their claim area.

“We normally stop them at Finger Five area. That is when scuffles happen. Pelting of stones s not unusual. It happens once in a while. This time due to Independence Day and the ongoing standoff at Doklam it got noticed,” a defence source said.

Even as stones were hurled by both sides, the two armies also exchanged sweets on the occasion of India’s Independence Day. Army sources confirmed that “sweets were exchanged between the Indian Army & PLA troops at multiple border locations, including in the area of Doklam.”

However, the ceremonial BPM normally held to commemorate national days did not take place.

There are five BPM points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Bum La and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in Ladakh and Nathu La in Sikkim. Discussions are on to set up another BPM in Uttarakhand.

“I am not aware of the information. I can tell you that the Chinese border troops are always committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity of the India-China border,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 10:17:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ladakh-stone-pelting-surprises-officials/article19504062.ece

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