The Indian government on Thursday denied China’s claims that India is carrying out any activity in violation of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and Sikkim.
“Any suggestion that Indian troops had undertaken activity across the LAC in the Western Sector or the Sikkim sector is not accurate,” the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava told media during a virtual press briefing.
All Indian activities, he said, “are entirely on the Indian side of the LAC. In fact, it is Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns”.
Meanwhile, the United States said border disputes with China — be it in Ladakh or in the South China Sea — were a “reminder of the threat by China”.
The “provocations and disturbing behaviour by China that poses questions about how China seeks to use its growing power”, said Alice Wells, Outgoing Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, in a strong statement.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has erected a sizeable number of tents in the Galwan Valley of the Union Territory of Ladakh – an area over which India is sensitive about since the showdown in the 1962 war. In the first week of May, 250 Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area.
In the second week of May, around 150 soldiers of both sides had a face-off near Naku La Pass in Sikkim. In both the incidents, soldiers sustained injuries. Both India and China have now deployed addition troops both in tense areas of Galwan valley, Pangong Tso lake and several areas in northern Sikkim.
The spokesperson said that Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas and abide by it scrupulously.
The Indian side has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management, Srivastava said adding that the government at the same time, is deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security.
The Indian troops strictly follow the procedures laid down in various bilateral agreements and protocols to resolve any situations which may arise due to difference in the perception of the LAC.
The spokesperson said India and China have established mechanisms to resolve such situations peacefully through dialogue. Both sides remain engaged with each other to address any immediate issues, he added.
Recalling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, in their meeting at Chennai last year, had agreed to resolve such issues through dialogue, the spokesperson said Indian side remains firmly committed to work for the common objective of maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas. “This is an essential prerequisite to the further development of Indian-China bilateral relations,” he said.
India reinforced troops in the region after reports of China pitching tents near river Galwan — a 1962 flashpoint that has seen aggression in recent days — and increasing construction activities.
Last month, Indian and Chinese soldiers were engaged in one of their most hostile clashes with hand-to-hand fighting in North Sikkim and on the banks of the high-altitude Pangong lake in Ladakh. There were reports of injuries on both sides. Around the same time, Chinese helicopters were seen flying in eastern Ladakh, near the LAC or de-facto border between the two countries. The Air Force in response flew its Sukhoi-30 fighters.
On Tuesday, the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, said Chinese border troops have bolstered their defences in the Galwan Valley region in north Ladakh “and made necessary moves in response to India’s recent, illegal construction of defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region”. The article refers to the situation as “the strongest military response to India’s illegal trespassing incident along the border since the Doklam standoff.”
Last week, Army Chief General MM Naravane played down differences between India and China. “It is only at one or two places where this has happened. And this does happen from time to time. It also happens when there is a change of commanders on ground,” he said.