Chinese language and Indian Troops Conflict at Their Disputed Border
NEW DELHI – Indian and Chinese forces clashed along their controversial Himalayan border on Monday as Beijing tacitly increased pressure on its southern neighbor by entering new territories, media and military reports said.
Details of the recent skirmish remain foggy, and Indian officials downplayed the events. Indian media and independent military analysts said the clash took place a few days ago and that soldiers on both sides had been wounded, although no deaths were reported.
The Indian army only said that a “little battle” took place last week in North Sikkim, a mountainous Indian state on the border with China.
The duel was “resolved by the local commanders in accordance with established protocols,” said a statement from the Indian Army, without explaining how the duel took place or whether anyone was injured.
Chinese officials were even closer. At a regular press conference on Monday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, emphasized that both sides are holding military talks. Hu Xijin, editor of Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Communist Party, called the reports “false news” and said that minor frictions are common.
Although few details were known, reports of a clash show that tensions are still indulging between the two Asian giants, who waged a war in 1962 and have since carefully watched each other across their unsolved border. Tensions erupted in June when troops from both countries engaged in a deadly brawl on the border of the Ladakh region of northern India.
No shots were fired in this battle, due to the tacit understanding that neither side should use firearms along the strained Himalayan border. However, the deaths of more than 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops demonstrated the increasing aggressiveness of both countries, ruled by nationalist leaders with little political incentive to retreat. In the Ladakh region alone, 100,000 soldiers from the Indian and Chinese armies are currently facing inhospitable mountain passes at temperatures below zero, according to military experts.
Since the summer, both sides have tried to ease tensions. In India, however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government claims that China is far from invading disputed border areas.
The NDTV report on new structures in rugged mountain areas is difficult to independently verify. Two Indian government officials in Arunachal said the Chinese had recently built villages in disputed areas along the border in places where there used to be few isolated military posts.
“Some civilians lived where the army lived,” said DJ Borah, a senior district official in the area.
When asked about the new village, officials from the Indian Foreign Ministry referred to a statement to NDTV in which the ministry said it was aware of the latest report and that “China has carried out such infrastructure construction activities in recent years. ”
Leaders of India’s main opposition party have criticized Mr. Modi for keeping silent on the matter. “China is expanding its occupation into Indian territory,” Rahul Gandhi, chairman of the party, the Indian National Congress, said on Twitter.
For their part, Chinese officials do not deny that there are new villages in the area. But they say the area is in China.
“China’s normal construction on its own territory is a matter of sovereignty,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign minister, said this month.
Local leaders in Arunachal Pradesh, interviewed by the New York Times, said Chinese forces have slowly but steadily cut away small parts of Indian territory, much like the strategy shown by China in the South China Sea and along its border with Bhutan Has. Military analysts call this slicing salami.
“Longju used to be our country,” said Chatung Mra, a bank director who used the local name for the general area where the Chinese village now stands. “Our ancestors lived there.”
“We feel very bad, but what can we do?” Mr. Mra asked. “We can’t fight them.”
The area in question is at the foot of the Himalayas and more than 1,500 miles from New Delhi, the capital. Official Indian maps showed the Longju area was several miles within India, said local guides who visited near the disputed area. But China, they said, has effectively controlled it since 1959.
In recent years, China has carried out a number of construction projects along the border, making areas that were previously accessible to people on the Indian side inaccessible.
The Chinese infrastructure campaign, according to the local government leaders, has far outperformed India’s activities and effectively absorbed the disputed areas in China.
“We used to be up to five or six kilometers beyond Longju,” said Tungpo Mra, a leader of the Mra, a local ethnic group. “Now everything is under China’s control.”
Taro Bamina, the general secretary of a youth group in Arunachal, was particularly frustrated and helped organize a protest last week that was attended by hundreds of demonstrators in Daporijo, a market town in Arunachal.
“This is our motherland,” said Mr Bamina. “We wanted to let the Indian government know. “Why didn’t you take care of it?”
What local guides in Arunachal report is similar to what local guides in Ladakh reported more than 2,000 miles away. In recent years, according to Ladakh leaders, China has stepped up construction projects along the border with India that zigzag through high mountain passes and have never been marked. The result is that China can get troops – and civilians – into the border areas much faster than India.
Chinese and Indian military commanders continue to hold talks along the disputed border in the Ladakh region. Meanwhile, Ladakhi herdsmen have complained that they have had to chase away Chinese vehicles that were brashly driving into India.
Sushant Singh, a senior at the New Delhi Center for Policy Research and a veteran of the Indian Army, said the recent clash in Sikkim, an area where India had expected a strategic advantage because it has more troops, indicated that tensions would mount as the ground thaws.
“If you see it in the light of everything that is going on,” said Mr Singh, “it means that we are seeing a very tense situation next summer.”
Steven Lee Myers reported from Seoul, South Korea.