India says troops hold Himalayan hilltops after face-off with Chinese forces
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A senior Indian official said on Tuesday Indian troops had deployed on four strategic hilltops after what New Delhi called an attempted Chinese incursion along the disputed Himalayan border, underlining simmering tensions between the Asian giants.
China denied that it had moved first, with an embassy spokeswoman in New Delhi accusing Indian troops of trespassing across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto border – and conducting “flagrant provocations”.
Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a high-altitude border confrontation for months in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh. The two sides have disputed the course of the frontier for more than half a century.
The Indian official, who was briefed on the latest incident, said the Indian troop move responded to an attempt by a large number of Chinese infantry to push through a key mountain pass late on Saturday.
“We mobilized and occupied the four heights,” the official said, adding all four hilltops were on India’s side of the LAC.
The Indian official said the Chinese soldiers were backed up by military vehicles and drew close enough to engage Indian troops in verbal arguments, but there were no clashes.
He said the incident occurred on the southern bank of Pangong Tso, a picturesque lake in the snow desert region where Indian and Chinese troops have been facing off since April.
The Indian official said the Chinese had also been consolidating positions on the northern bank of the lake with what appeared to be new defensive positions.
But Ji Rong, a spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, said Indian troops had violated the LAC at Pangong Tso’s southern bank and near another mountain pass.
“What India has done runs counter to the efforts made by both sides for a period of time to ease and cool down the situation on the ground, and China is resolutely opposed to this,” she said.
“India … said it pre-empted Chinese military activity,” China’s state-backed Global Times said in an editorial. “The word ‘pre-empt’ shows it was Indian troops that first took destructive action, and the Indian troops initiated the stand-off this time.”
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan area, the most serious clash between the two countries in 50 years.
Both sides then agreed to pull back with military chiefs in the region holding five rounds of talks. But the Indian military said this week Beijing had reneged on the deal by carrying out “provocative military movements to change the status quo”.
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