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China accuses India of trespass, Line of Actual Control heats up

A file picture of the India-China International Nathula Pass Border, in north Sikkim on December 25 2015.

A file picture of the India-China International Nathula Pass Border, in north Sikkim on December 25 2015.   | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

In the statement released on May 19 in Chinese, the Chinese Foreign Ministry referred to the recent skirmish in Sikkim.

China has accused the Indian Army of crossing into its territory and of “blocking” its patrols and “attempting to unilaterally change the status” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries in Sikkim and Ladakh. As both sides increased troop strength at points of conflict along the LAC, sources indicated that military commanders were holding talks to defuse the situation.

In a statement released on May 19 in Chinese, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing referred to the recent skirmish in Sikkim, claiming that “the Indian Army has crossed the line across the western section of the Sino-Indian border and the Sikkim section to enter Chinese territory”. 

The statement went on to say that the Chinese side had taken up the matter with India, asking the Indian side to “immediately withdraw the personnel across the line, restore the status quo of the relevant areas, strictly restrict the front line troops, observe the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and the agreements and agreements signed by the two sides, and jointly maintain peace and stability in the border areas.”

The strongly worded statement, made available to the media by the Chinese Ministry, marked an escalation in the current tensions at the LAC between the two nations, threatening to bring what the Indian government has thus far maintained were “actions by both armies on the ground”, into a diplomatic face-off between the countries, the most serious such event since the Doklam face-off in 2017.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to respond to the comments by the Chinese Ministry. Official sources said deliberations were on and they were are at a “crucial stage”.

Aggressive action by troops

Sikkim’s Naku La pass is one of four areas that had seen aggressive action between the Chinese and Indian troops (including the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel) since mid-April this year, according to sources.

News Analysis | Behind new incidents, a changed dynamic along India-China border

Similar skirmishes, including jostling, and fisticuffs between the soldiers had been reported along a stretch in eastern Ladakh at the Pangong Tso lake, Demchok and the the Galwan river nalah, the sources said. Both sides had rushed more personnel to the area, and more than a dozen new Chinese boats had been observed on the lake, the sources added. 

Two face-offs

Officially, the Army said there were two face-offs between the troops of the two countries — one on May 5 near Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh and the other on May 9 at Naku La in north Sikkim. The incidents were marked by “aggressive behaviour by both sides”, which resulted in injuries to 76 Indian soldiers, including serious injury to a senior officer, who was airlifted and was now stable, the sources said.

Subsequently, Indian Army officials said both sides disengaged after dialogue and interaction at the local level. However, the Army declined to comment on the latest developments on the ground.

At Demchok, which has seen stand-offs in the past as well, there is a huge accumulation of Chinese troops and construction equipment, two sources independently confirmed. 

The sources expressed concern that developments here impacted the Indian Air Force (IAF) landing strip at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) at 16,000 feet and also the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road. 

The Army also denied that the separate incidents in eastern Ladakh and western Sikkim a distance that spans 1,200 km along the Line of Actual Control, were “co-related” in any way. 

“Temporary and short duration face-offs between border guarding troops do occur along the LAC due to the differing perceptions of the alignment of boundaries, which are not resolved,” Army Chief Gen Manoj Naravane said last week in a statement. “Development of infrastructure capabilities along our Northern borders is on track,” he added.

In March last, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence was informed that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has completed 75% of the construction work on the 61 Indo-China Border Roads (ICBRs) of length 3323.57 km. Of these, 12 roads, measuring about 1064 km, are in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, while three roads, measuring about 62 km, are in Sikkim.

(With inputs from Ananth Krishnan in Chennai)

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 4:14:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tensions-escalate-along-lac-in-sikkim-as-china-accuses-india-of-trespass/article31629997.ece

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