The Indian Army on Tuesday said Chinese troops fired their weapons into the air on September 7 to intimidate its soldiers holding dominating heights near a strategic mountain pass in eastern Ladakh, during a failed attempt to close in on a forward position controlled by India, with bullets flying at the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) for the first time in 45 years.
Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attempted to advance on the Mukhpari peak near Rezang La on Monday evening but they stopped in their tracks after a stern warning from the Indian Army that occupied key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso to prevent the PLA from grabbing Indian territory in a stealthy midnight move on August 29, officials familiar with the developments said on Tuesday, requesting anonymity.
Indian soldiers had put up a “wire obstacle” near their positions in a warning to the PLA to not cross over, they said. The situation remains tense in the area with around 40 to 50 Chinese soldiers armed with automatic weapons, spears and machetes still holding positions below the Mukhpari peak, said one of the officials cited above.
“They are the same soldiers who fired the shots. Our positions are around 200 metres away. They have been in the area for the last two to three days. The PLA’s intent is to occupy high ground,” said a second official.
Reacting to a statement made by the PLA’s Western Theatre Command that accused India of crossing the disputed border and firing shots on Monday, the Indian Army said it neither violated the LAC nor fired bullets and the PLA was trying to mislead domestic and international audience with its baseless allegations.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said Indian troops exercised “great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner” despite grave provocation by the PLA.
“It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress,” the statement said.
The latest tensions in eastern Ladakh come days after defence minister Rajnath Singh asked China to strictly respect the LAC, not make attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, and work with India for complete disengagement from all friction areas in the sensitive sector.
“On September 7, it was the PLA troops who were attempting to close-in on one of our forward positions along the LAC and when dissuaded by Indian troops, the PLA troops fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate own troops,” the army statement said. It did not specify how Indian soldiers “dissuaded” the PLA.
The army said while India was committed to disengagement and de-escalating the conflict, China was undertaking provocative actions to escalate the situation.
“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to the use of any aggressive means, including firing,” the statement said.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility. However, it is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs. The statement by the Western Theatre Command is an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience,” it added. The Western Theatre Command on Monday accused Indian soldiers of illegally crossing the LAC and firing “warning shots,” forcing the PLA to take countermeasures.
During a meeting with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe in Moscow on Friday, Singh made it clear that India was fully determined to defend its frontiers. He told the Chinese defence minister that the PLA’s aggressive actions in the Ladakh sector to unilaterally change the status quo on the ground violated bilateral agreements and the understanding between the special representatives of the two sides.
Singh said while Indian troops showed a responsible approach towards border management, there should be no doubt about India’s determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tensions flared up in the Ladakh sector after the army occupied strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong Lake following aggressive moves by the PLA on August 29.
China made another provocative move on August 31, targeting these positions but the Indian Army’s swift defensive action thwarted the Chinese attempt. Both sides have concentrated a significant number of soldiers, tanks and artillery pieces, and are within each other’s rifle range in the area.
The situation on the lake’s southern bank remains tense with both armies sending in reinforcements to the area where the Indian Army controls ridgeline positions that allow it to completely dominate the sector and keep an eye on Chinese military activity — India holds a series of positions near Black Top (a hill feature) and on Rezang La and Reqin pass.__HIndustan Times