A video shot on a mobile phone, reportedly showing the scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the banks of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh on Independence Day, was put out by a retired military officer. This is bound to raise tensions as the standoff between the two armies in Doklam area of Bhutan continues even after two months.
The 44-second-long clip, which was posted by Lt General Prakash Katoch (retd) on his Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, shows stone-pelting, shoving, kicking and injuries sustained by soldiers on both sides. Official Army sources, however, said that they “have no confirmation of the authenticity of the video”.
The scuffle between the soldiers happened on Tuesday morning when a Chinese patrol was confronted by an Indian patrol, comprising Army and ITBP troopers, in Finger-4 area of Pangong. There are 10 major spurs of the mountain forming the northern bank of Pangong lake, which the Army calls ‘fingers’. India claims that the Line of Actual Control is coterminous with Finger-8, but it actually controls area up to Finger-4.
Finger-4 is around 15 km to the west of Finger-8, and there have been regular confrontations between Indian and Chinese patrols in the disputed area, claimed by both sides. However, those confrontations have never resulted in this degree of physical violence, as witnessed on Tuesday morning.
When patrols of both sides confront each other, they follow a drill to disengage. This includes unfurling of a banner with the patrol commanders facing each other, asking the other side to withdraw from its territory. Top sources told The Indian Express that the drill was initially followed by the two patrol commanders, but the Chinese patrol commander then suddenly chose to go behind his men. The Indian patrol commander was then hit by a steel rod by the Chinese soldiers, which was followed by physical violence from both sides. Sources also confirmed that injuries were sustained by many soldiers from both sides.
The incident, which was confirmed by the MEA spokesperson in Delhi on Friday, was discussed in a pre-scheduled border personnel meeting between the two armies at Chushul on Wednesday. The meeting was chaired by Brigadiers from both sides where they reiterated the need to follow established protocols and drills.