As a tense military standoff in Doklam entered the third month, senior Indian and Chinese army officers discussed another border row on Wednesday, a day after troops of the two countries scuffled and threw stones at each other in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh sector.
According to army sources in Delhi, a ‘pre-scheduled’ Border Personnel Meeting was held near Chusul border area in Ladakh.
The sources said the meeting discussed the incidents and issues to ensure “strengthening of existing mechanisms for maintaining peace and tranquility” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides the cold Ladakh region between India and China.
Troops of both sides had scuffled near Pangong Lake in the western sector of the India and China boundary on Tuesday after Chinese troops tried to cross the LAC in areas known as Finger Four and Finger Five.
The standoff continued for more than an hour, during which soldiers on both sides were involved in stone pelting, which led to injury to troops on both sides, the sources said. This is a one of its kind incident where troops were involved in a skirmish, though no weapons were used.
Later, a standard drill in which banners are shown asking the other side to go back to the agreed point was held, and the Chinese troops retreated.
Federal Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and army officials in Delhi refused to comment on the incident but did not deny it either.
“This is not a subject on which the government normally makes a comment,” the defence minister said in Delhi.
Chinese officials on the other hand said they were not aware of the Ladakh incident, saying border troops always patrol on the Chinese side along the LAC. Beijing also asked New Delhi to abide by the LAC.
“I am not aware of them. The Chinese border troops are always committed to maintaining peace and tranquility along the border,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing. “We always patrol on the Chinese side along the Line of Actual Control. And we urge the India side to abide by the Line of Actual Control,” she said.
On the Doklam standoff, China again told India to pull back its troops from the tri-junction area. The standoff began on June 16 when the Indian Army stopped Chinese border troops from building a road in the plateau claimed by China and Bhutan.
“As for the trespass of Indian troops in Doklam area, China’s position is firm and consistent – that is Indian border troops must be withdrawn unconditionally and this is a precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides,” Hua said.
India has said it was ready to pull back troops if China does so too, an offer Beijing has outrightly rejected.
This is the longest military standoff between India and China after 1987 when both sides faced-off in Somordong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
The latest crisis has plunged ties between the two countries to a new low.
With no sign of resolution, the dispute is likely to cloud the crucial Brics summit meet in September, which could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending.