World War 3 panic: China and India fire warning shots as tensions flare up on border

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The shooting has shattered a long-standing agreement between the nuclear-armed neighbours for troops not to use firearms at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with live ammunition being used for the first time in 45 years. There have now been three recent incidents of warning shots being fired in the western Himalayas where troops are locked in a face-off over competing territorial claims, often in close proximity.

We should no longer be talking about peace and tranquillity along the LAC, but conflict prevention

DS Hooda

One Indian official said: “In all these cases shots were fired in the air and not at each other thankfully.”

One incident occurred on the north bank of the bitterly contested Pangong Tso lake in the run-up to a meeting between Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow last Thursday.

The shooting, which neither side has made public, was the most intense, according to another official.

Security sources told the Indian Express newspaper between 100 and 200 rounds were fired by the Chinese.

The two sides are jockeying for advantageous positions on the remote mountain border in the Ladakh sector which adjoins Tibet.

Last Monday, troops fired in the air on the southern bank of the lake.

Mr Jaishankar and Mr Wang have agreed to dial down tensions and the situation has calmed since their meeting.

But there has been no sign of either side withdrawing troops as yet.

Former Indian military commander lieutenant general DS Hooda said levels of distrust had risen to such a stage where it has become difficult to get back to the agreement under which troops carried few firearms at the contested border during their patrols.

He said: “We should no longer be talking about peace and tranquillity along the LAC, but conflict prevention.”

Both sides have deployed thousands of troops backed by tanks and aircraft along the 45 mile-long front to the south of the lake.

Each country has accused the other of escalating the stand-off.

Indian officials say a build-up in border infrastructure on their side is likely to have played a part in the months-long confrontation.

The Chinese have complained about India building roads and air strips in and around their disputed border, and Beijing says this triggered tensions along the border.

But Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament China had been building up its infrastructure in the remote mountains for decades and New Delhi was now trying to close the gap.

He said: “Our government too has stepped up the budget for border infrastructure development to about double the previous levels.

“As a result, more roads and bridges have been completed in the border areas.”

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Military officials said the development of roads and airfields on both sides of the border has also helped troops mobilise quickly in large numbers and in close proximity at some points in the Ladakh area.

Mr Singh the scale of the deployment of troops and the number of disputed areas was much more than the past.

He said: “As of now, the Chinese side has mobilized a large number of troops and armaments along the LAC as well as in the depth areas.

“In response to China’s actions, our armed forces have also made appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s security interests are fully protected.”

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