India acknowledged for the first time Thursday that it has matched China in massing troops at their contested Himalayan border region, in Ladakh, after a deadly clash this month – raising fears that India may be planning another tactical move to improve its ground position.
But India’s foreign ministry accused China of causing the tensions by first starting military deployments, and warned relations between the world’s two most populous nations could be undermined if the standoff continues.
Bloody Ladakh Clash: Rival Versions
Both Asian giants have blamed each other for a June 15-16 midnight battle in the Ladakh region in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed while China suffered an unknown number of casualties.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its spokesman Xiao Lijian (who earlier served in Islamabad as Deputy Chief of Mission) has provided a blow by blow account on twitter accusing Indian troops of trying to improve their positions in the night of 15th June. However Indian side maintains that Chinese attacked Indian soldiers unprovoked.
While each has said it wants to de-escalate the territorial showdown, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said “both sides remain deployed in large numbers in the region, while military and diplomatic contacts are continuing”.
Indian Buildup: Fears of another clash?
Indian build up raises fears that India, humiliated by the clash of 15-16th June may be planning another tactical move to improve its position and regain its shaken morale.
Srivastava said “Chinese actions” on the unofficial border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), led to this month’s deadly fight with rocks and batons. No shots were fired.
“At the heart of the matter is that since early May, the Chinese side has been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC,” the spokesman charged.
He added that China had obstructed India’s patrols in contravention of accords made to avoid skirmishes between their armies, who fought a border war in 1962 and have regularly clashed since.
Srivastava said Chinese forces had built “structures” on the Indian side of their demarcation line in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh where the high-altitude battle was fought.
— Dan Dragomir (@meanwhile_dan) June 26, 2020
“While there have been occasional departures in the past, the conduct of Chinese forces this year has been in complete disregard of all mutually agreed norms,” the spokesman said.
India had “to undertake counter deployments” because of the Chinese buildup, he said.
Indian fighter jets roared over a flashpoint Himalayan region Wednesday as part of a show of strength following what military sources say has been a Chinese takeover of contested territory. India reinforced Ladakh areas, even as the top brass of both countries is working together to resolve issues.
Chinese forces have held onto a chunk of land covering several square kilometres (miles) at the mouth of the Galwan valley following a deadly brawl there on June 15, the Indian military sources said.
The two sides publicly declared they would pull back following the clash, which saw 20 Indian soldiers killed in a battle involving rocks and nail-studded batons.
But both have maintained troops around the valley, with India deploying more forces and trying to project military might.
Peace talks between India and China
Military commanders have held talks and their foreign ministers have also discussed ways to end the showdown.
“Peace and tranquility in the border areas is the basis of our bilateral relationship,” said Srivastava, demanding that China follow up on its pledge to cool tensions.
“A continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere for the development of the relationship.”
China has accused Indian forces of causing the June 15 battle by attacking its troops.
Beijing has also called on India “to immediately stop all infringing and provocative actions.”
China returns Indian soldiers
China returned a group of ten Indians soldiers captured during a deadly confrontation along the border earlier this month, reports say. The melee left 20 Indian troops dead and also led to casualties on the Chinese side. Both countries have since laid blame on the other for the skirmish, with Indian Prime Minister Modi vowing revenge for those slain.
The released soldiers, including a major and a captain, were handed over to New Delhi after high-level talks between the nations’ armies, Indian media reported, citing sources. After their release, the servicemen were sent for medical check-ups and were “debriefed” by officials.
The Indian Army did not comment on the news but later released a statement, clarifying that none of its soldiers are listed as missing.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers in border skirmishes with the Chinese military will “not be in vain,” and vowed a response if there is further provocation.
“I would like to assure the country that the sacrifice of our soldiers will not be in vain. For us, the unity and integrity of the country is the most important… India wants peace but is capable of giving a reply if provoked,” Modi said in a televised address Wednesday.
GVS News Desk with input from AFP, other Agencies and sources.