Updated: September 9, 2020 12:52:29 pm
Rejecting Beijing’s allegation that Indian troops fired shots at a Chinese patrol, the Indian Army Tuesday said it was the PLA troops who “fired a few rounds in the air” while attempting to “close in” on an Indian forward position along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
This is the first instance since 1975 when shots have been fired along the LAC — 45 years ago, an Assam Rifles patrol was ambushed by the Chinese in Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh.
Army sources said Indian troops at Mukpari, one of the heights they occupied a week ago in the Chushul sector, foiled a Chinese attempt to reach the top of the hill feature Monday evening.
Until Tuesday evening, Indian and Chinese troops continued to be in the general area of the standoff site, a few hundred metres separating them.
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An Army officer said ever since the August 29-30 Indian operation, the Chinese have been making “almost daily attempts” to try and reach the same heights. “There have been multiple attempts at multiple places” in the sector, he said.
Located west of Spanggur Tso and north-west of Rezang La, the Mukpari heights, a senior Army officer said, provide significant tactical domination, offering a commanding view of the terrain and Chinese positions including its garrison in Moldo. From the heights in the area, troops can keep an eye on the Spanggur Gap, a mountain pass which the Chinese used in the 1962 war to try and push towards Chushul.
On Monday evening, Indian troops at Mukpari noticed a group of 30-40 Chinese soldiers, armed with machetes, steel rods and other objects, trying to climb the hill from their side of the LAC.
The Indian troops at the heights, Army sources said, cautioned the Chinese that it would be dangerous if they were to come close. They were told to turn back. While the Chinese troops were returning, one among them fired shots in the air, sources said.
In a statement, the Indian Army rejected Chinese allegations and said its troops did not open fire or cross the LAC.
“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing,” the Army said. It said while India is “committed to disengagement and de-escalating the situation on the LAC, China continues to undertake provocative activities to escalate” the situation. The Army accused the PLA of “blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress”.
On the Monday incident, the Army said “it was the PLA troops who were attempting to close-in” on “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”. The Army said its troops “exercised great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner”. It said while it is “committed to maintaining peace and tranquility”, it is “also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs”. It said the statement by PLA’s Western Theatre Command on the Monday incident was “an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience”. Late Monday night, Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the PLA Western Theatre Command, claimed the Indian Army “crossed the line and entered Bangong Hunan, the western section of the Sino-Indian border.”
“Indian actions seriously violated the relevant agreements and agreements between China and India, pushing up regional tensions, and easily causing misunderstandings and misjudgments”.
Describing these as “serious military provocations… of very bad nature”, Zhang urged “the Indian side to immediately stop dangerous actions, immediately withdraw cross-line personnel, strictly restrain front-line troops, and strictly investigate and punish personnel who fired shots to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again”.
India has maintained that all its actions have been along the LAC. On September 4, Army chief General MM Naravane, while on a visit to eastern Ladakh to review ground preparedness, called the situation along the LAC “tense” but said “we have undertaken precautionary deployment in some areas” and “are prepared for all contingencies that may arise”.
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