Updated: September 1, 2020 8:40:42 pm
A day after the Indian Army announced that it had taken “measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions” to change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Tso, China on Tuesday said that Indian troops had “violated” the consensus on August 31 and “illegally trespassed the LAC”.
The Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said, in a statement, “On August 31st, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas.”
“India’s move has grossly violated China’s territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquility along the China-India border areas. 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.
Explained: Importance of Pangong’s south bank
The Chinese embassy spokesperson said that China has made “solemn representations to the Indian side, urged the Indian side to strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly honor its commitments, immediately stop all the provocative actions, immediately withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the Line of Actual Control, immediately stop any actions leading to the escalation and complication of the situation”.
Tensions soared in Ladakh after the Indian Army had said on Monday: “On the Night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.”
“Indian troops preempted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground. The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity through dialogue, but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity. A Brigade Commander level Flag Meeting is in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues,” the Indian Army had said.
Sources had said that Indian troops had moved in to occupy dominating heights on its side of the LAC on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday on the south bank of Pangong Tso, after ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) reports suggested a PLA move to occupy the same areas.
These heights are also claimed by the Chinese, as lying on their side of the LAC.
Indian troops, sources said, have positioned themselves at a more advantageous location to prevent Chinese troops from coming in. The area, east of Thakung base, has always been under Indian control and is west of the Indian perception of the LAC, the sources said.
Chinese embassy spokesperson’s statement is on the same lines as the Chinese Defence and Foreign ministry statements on Monday.
On Monday, Chinese Western Theatre Command’s spokesperson Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili said in Chengdu that India troops on Monday illegally trespassed the Line of Control (LOC) again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso Lake and near the Reqin Mountain and conducted flagrant provocations. He also “urged” that the Indian side should immediately withdraw its troops and avoid any escalation in the situation.
Zhang made the remarks in a written statement responding to the recent China-India border situation on Monday night. He said that the Indian military’s move has violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India and stirred tension on the border.
Zhang further pointed out that India’s move has grossly violated China’s territorial sovereignty, and severely damaged peace and stability in the China-India border area, and China is strongly opposed to the Indian side’s faithless act of repudiating past promises.
“We solemnly demand the Indian side to immediately withdraw its troops that (are) illegally trespassing the border line, strictly control and restrain its frontline troops and earnestly honor its commitments, so as to avoid further escalation in the situation,” he stressed.
He had also said in the statement that the Chinese military is taking necessary countermeasures and will closely follow the developments to resolutely safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty, as well as peace and stability in the border region.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had said on Monday that the “Chinese border troops have been strictly observing the Line of Actual Control and never crossed the line. The Chinese and Indian border troops are in contact with each other regarding the issue on the ground.”
“China and India are in close communication through diplomatic and military channels. As for the specific meetings and talks, information will be released in due course once we have an update,” he said, in response to questions.
As China upped the ante by saying that the Indian Army has “illegally crossed” the Line of Actual Control, New Delhi is alarmed at the latest provocation by Chinese troops and Chinese President’s comments.
Sources in the Indian establishment pointed to Saturday’s turn of events, where Chinese President Xi Jinping told the country’s highest-level meeting on Tibet that safeguarding border security should be a priority.
“In China, nothing of this sort is a coincidence,” a source told The Indian Express on Monday night. Sources in New Delhi said that Chinese President Xi had on Saturday ordered party, government and military leaders to “solidify border defences and ensure frontier security” as well as ensuring “national security and enduring peace and stability” in the region, which shares a long border with India.
Xi was speaking at the seventh Central Symposium on Tibet Work, which finished in Beijing on Saturday. It is the country’s most important forum for Tibet policies, and the two-day event was the first such gathering since 2015.
Saturday’s meeting was attended by the Politburo, leading members of the military, law enforcement agencies and judiciary, as well as leading officials from Tibet and neighbouring provinces.
A later report by Xinhua did not mention Xi’s comments on border security, instead focusing on a call to educate the public to fight against separatism to “form an impregnable fortress in maintaining stability” and strengthen the unity of all ethnic groups in Tibet.
Xi also told the meeting to strengthen the role of the Communist Party, saying absolute loyalty was necessary to “counter major [ideological and disciplinary] battles and prevent major risks”.
The meeting took place after a rare visit to the region by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier this month which included a trip to the disputed border. Wang said during the trip that the security and stability of Tibet was of pivotal importance to China’s overall development.
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