A growing unease dawned upon Indian political and military establishment amid multiple reports of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troopers reinforcing their positions in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso Lake areas, where the Chinese troopers are reported to have intruded into territories patrolled by India for decades. Demanding that all political parties be taken aboard on the current state of the ongoing standoff, Congress said in a statement on Monday that “Chinese transgressions into the Galwan Valley could threaten Darbuk-Shyok-DBO Road” which is vital to servicing Indian troops in Sub-Sector North and close to the Karakoram pass.
The statement by the main opposition party came after an unverified video of Indian troops clashing with their Chinese counterparts started doing the rounds of social media. The video, which appears to have been shot at Pangong Tso Lake, shows Indian soldiers, many with sticks in hands, surrounding an abandoned Chinese patrolling vehicle and engaging in stone-pelting duels with PLA troops some distance away.
The Indian Army rubbished the video in an official statement, as it urged the media to refrain from airing it lest it contributes to complicating the situation at the border.
According to a news report, Chinese troops could be encroaching upon at least 60 square kilometres of Indian territory in Galwan Valley, a strategic location that also helps them overlook the DBO Road.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said earlier this week that bilateral talks between the military commanders and diplomats of the two countries were ongoing, as Beijing and New Delhi grapple to diffuse the tense standoff.
In another news report, Asian News International (ANI) quoted Indian Army officials as saying that Chinese had stationed “a fleet of 10-12 fighter aircraft,” including J-7s and J-11s, close to eastern Leh sector on their side. “Their fighter aircraft have been carrying out sorties from air bases in Hotan and Gargunsa and fly 30-35 kms from our territory in Ladakh region,” the news agency quoted its sources as saying.
Last week, The Times of India reported that New Delhi had sent troops into the rear locations of the eastern Leh border, while the Leh-based infantry division was asked to occupy the forward border areas.
Situation at border ‘stable’, says China
In the backdrop of unease at the border, China said earlier in the day that the overall situation at the border with India was “stable and controllable”, and both the countries have “unimpeded” communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations. The comments by the Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian came in the backdrop of the continuing standoff between the armies of India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“China has been implementing the consensus between the two countries’ leaders. We have been committed to upholding our national sovereignty, security as well as stability along the border,” Mr Zhao said.
“Now the overall situation in our border areas is stable and controllable. We have unimpeded communication channels and we hope and believe through dialogue and consultations we can properly resolve the relevant issue,” he said in response to a question on Defence Minister Rajnth Singh’s remarks that India will not allow its dignity to be harmed on the border issue.
India on Wednesday said it was engaged with China to peacefully resolve the border row after US President Trump’s offer to arbitrate between the two Asian giants to settle their decades-old dispute.
“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, replying to a volley of questions at an online media briefing.
“The two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels,” he said.
India-China border tensions flared up in Ladakh and Sikkim. On May 5, the Indian and the Chinese army personnel clashed in the Pangong Tso lake area. In a separate incident, some Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on May 9.
In 2017, the troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control. Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
(With PTI inputs)