The Indian and Chinese armies on Tuesday clashed along the Pangong lake in Ladakh when the People’s Liberation Army tried to penetrate into the Indian side. Amidst strained ties over the ongoing Doklam standoff, the Chinese troops had declined to participate in the ceremonial border meetings on the occasion of India’s Independence Day this year. This happened for the first time since 2005. Another ceremonial meeting, which used to be held on the founding day of the PLA – August 1 – was also not held this year.
The skirmish between the troops took place at Finger-6 part of the lake, around 7:30 am. There were reports of jostling and exchange of blows but no shots were fired. At least 52 Chinese army trucks were seen stationed on the road China had built on the side of the lake. They, however, moved out by the evening. The Indian Army declined to comment on the incident.
Pangon lake or Pangong Tso, a 135-km long lake, located in the Himalayas at the height of approximately 4,350 m, stretches out from India to China. One-third of water body, its 45 km stretch, is in Indian control while the rest of the 90 km is under Chinese control. According to PTI reports, the Chinese troops managed to enter the Finger-4 area of the lake but were obstructed from moving in further by the Indian army. There has been constant strife between the two countries over the region as both assert territorial possession.
The region has been a bone of contention between India and China for long. In the 1990s, when the Indian side laid claims over the area, the Chinese army built a metal-top road contending that it was part of the Aksai Chin, which is another disputed border area between the two. The Aksai Chin area falls under Chinese control and is governed as part of Hotan County. However, India also claims it to be a part of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
The road constructed by China comes under Siri Jap area and enters 5 km into the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Chinese patrols, in the past, would come regularly from the northern and southern banks of the Pangon lake. Indian troops often intercept Chinese troops along the bank of the lake and the situation remains tense since May 2013 with the standoff in the Depsang plains of Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO).