In a clear indication that the festering trouble in Eastern Ladakh is far from over, the Centre said that Chinese troops had tried ‘to change the status quo’ on the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake on Saturday night but were stopped by Indian troops as the activity was ‘pre-empted.’ Sources said the incident is a cause of serious concern as this is a new conflict area. Even as China denied any such move, a Brigade Commander-level flag meeting was held in Chushul to resolve the issues.
An official statement by the Defence Ministry maintained that ‘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’ on the intervening night of August 29-30. “Indian troops pre-empted 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 tranquility through dialogue, but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity,” the statement issued on Monday morning read.
Top sources said that a sizeable number of Chinese troops, some put the number at close to 200, arrived in a vehicular convoy and ran into an Indian post. The Indian Army that had prior intel about the Chinese movement and had mobilised forces was already present in the area thereby pushing them back. Sources said there were no physical altercations and no injuries or casualties on either side.
China, however, denied the development and claimed that their border troops ‘never cross the line of actual control.’ “Both sides are in communication regarding the situation on the ground,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing.
A Chinese military spokesperson, Colonel Zhang Shuili, also claimed that it was India that had violated China’s sovereignty. “The Chinese military is taking necessary countermeasures and will pay close attention to developments and resolutely safeguard China's territorial sovereignty and peace and stability in border areas,” he said.
Despite several rounds of diplomatic and military engagements between the two countries, the situation in Eastern Ladakh has been far from normal since the bloody clashes on June 20 in which 20 soldiers were killed at the Galwan Valley. Though Chinese troops pulled back from some of the conflict areas, Indian authorities have repeatedly raised the issue of their continuing presence and highlighted that the withdrawal of troops is not complete. Satellite images show Chinese presence on slopes along Finger 5 and on those extending towards Finger 8.
Ladakh LG Radha Krisha Mathur met MoS Home G Kishan Reddy in New Delhi to apprise him of the situation at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. The Ladakh-Srinagar highway was closed to civilian traffic reportedly for troop movement.