New Delhi: After China claimed on Monday night that Indian troops had fired warning shots, India on Tuesday morning denied any such action and instead accused Chinese soldiers of firing a “few rounds in the air” after being stopped from “closing in” on forward positions on the Line of Actual Control.
With both sides accusing the other of firing rounds, it is appears that shots have been fired at the LAC for the first time in nearly five decades.
The accusation was made in a statement issued just after midnight in Beijing by the Chinese western theatre command spokesperson. There has been no response from the Indian government so far.
The latest uptick in tensions between both countries comes just two days after the Indian and Chinese defence ministers met in Moscow on September 5. The two foreign ministers are also scheduled to meet in Russia on the sidelines of the SCO council for foreign ministers that will be held on September 10.
As per the statement from PLA western theatre command, Indian army troops allegedly crossed the Line of Control near the Pangong Tso lake on Monday. This area has recently emerged as a new area for stand-off between both countries. India has stated that Chinese troops attempted to cross the LAC twice on August 29 and 31.
The Chinese military spokesperson senior colonel Zhang Shiuli claimed that Indian troops crossed the LAC on Monday at the western sector into the Shenpao mountain region near the south bank of Pangong Tso lake.
He stated that Indian soldiers “outrageously fired warning shots on Chinese border patrol soldiers who were about to negotiate”. As a result, he added that “Chinese troops were forced to take countermeasures to stabilise the situation”.
The Indian statement issued on Tuesday morning categorically denied these allegations. “At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing,” said the Indian Ministry of Defence.
Pointing a finger at China, the statement added, “In the instant case on 07 September 2020, it was the PLA 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 own troops.”
India asserted that the statement by the PLA western theatre command was “an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience”.
“…, despite the grave provocation, own (Indian) troops exercised great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner,” said the MOD media communique.
It further stated that Chinese military has been “blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress”.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility, however is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs,” added the Indian statement.
Earlier, PLA western theatre command spokesperson Zhang Shiuli asserted that Indian actions had “seriously violated related agreements reached by both sides, stirred up tensions in the region, and would easily cause misunderstandings and misjudgments, which is a serious military provocation and is very vile in nature”.
“We demand the Indian side to immediately stop dangerous moves, withdraw personnel who crossed the LAC at once, strictly control frontline troops, seriously investigate and punish the personnel who fired the provocative shot and ensure similar incidents won’t take place again,” he said.
The 1996 agreement on ‘Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas’ has a clause which prohibits the use of firearms “within two kilometres of the line of actual control”.
During the current ongoing crisis, India has stressed that its troops are well-versed in border management and has also denied that they ever crossed the LAC. On the contrary, India has said that the current stand-off was triggered due to China not adhering to the bilateral agreement on informing each other on the nature of military exercises near the LAC.
Twenty Indian soldiers died in a violent hand-to-hand fight with Chinese troops at the Galwan valley on June 15. The Chinese, however, have never acknowledged any casualties. These were the first casualties along the long boundary between the two Asian giants in four decades.
Note: This article was first published at 2:15 am on September 8, 2020 and was updated and republished at 11:30 am on September 8, 2020 with the Indian Army’s response.