AGENCIES, Ladakh/New Delhi: China tried to close in on Indian positions on the South Bank of Ladakh’s Pangong Lake on Monday and fired shots in the air, India as alleged, accusing Beijing of trying to mislead their domestic and international audience.
In a statement, the Indian Army asserted that at no stage had its soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or resorted to any aggressive means, including firing. Indian troops recently gained tactical advantage by occupying heights in the region, thwarting Chinese attempts to unilaterally alter the LAC.
Sources say the Indian Army continues to hold ground after many provocations by the Chinese army in their attempt to move in on these heights. Some 7,000 Indian soldiers are at the spot and tanks have also been deployed after last night’s incident.
There have been repeated Chinese forays to move Indian soldiers away from the heights they occupy over the last few days. On Monday, Chinese and Indian soldiers were within shooting distance in key hills occupied by India on the south bank of Pangong Lake, between Rechin La-Rezangla-Mukhpari and Magar Hill in South Pangong. When Chinese soldiers came up to a position near Mukhpari, Indians troops shouted at them and showed their weapons, say sources. The Chinese then fired a burst of warning shots.
“It was the (Chinese) troops who were attempting to close-in with one of our forward positions along the LAC and when dissuaded by own troops, PLA troops fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate our soldiers. However, despite the grave provocation, our troops exercised great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner,” the army statement said.
China has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress, said India. “The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility, however is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs. The statement by the Western Command Theatre is an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience.”
China had on Monday night claimed Indian soldiers fired warning shots in the air during a confrontation. It had also claimed that Chinese troops took “countermeasures”. Zhang Shuili, spokesman for the Western Command theatre, said in a statement: “We request the Indian side to immediately stop dangerous actions…and strictly investigate and punish personnel who fired shots to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again.”
There were two major incidents of Chinese provocation at Pangong Tso, a glacial lake at 14,000 feet, on August 29 and 31. India said the Chinese have been attempting to change status quo from a new area, the South Bank of Pangong. India was prepared and was able to thwart these attempts, said the government.
The previous incident on August 31 was a daytime operation during which Indian soldiers were surrounded by Chinese soldiers trying to regain heights. Sources said the Chinese soldiers were warned not to proceed and Chinese military commanders were asked to stand down to prevent any escalation.
Tension between the countries peaked when 20 Indian soldiers died for the country in a clash with the Chinese on June 15. China also suffered casualties but never confirmed any figure.
The latest incident comes three days after Defense Minister Rajnath Singh held discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of a meet in Moscow and agreed to ease tensions.