India has said that Chinese troops on 7 September fired shots to intimidate Indian soldiers while attempting to close in on a forward position held by the army along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the southern bank of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh where the border row has worsened.
In a statement issued on 8 September, the Indian Army said its troops exercised “great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner” despite the grave provocation. The Indian Army said its troops did not cross the LAC or open fire at any stage, denying accusations made by the PLA.
“It is the People’s Liberation Army 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 development comes three 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 eastern Ladakh in the midst of military tensions between the two sides.
“In the instant case on 7 September, it was the PLA troops who were attempting to close-in with one of our forward positions along the LAC and when dissuaded by own troops, PLA troops fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate own troops,” the army statement said.
The army said while India was committed to disengagement and de-escalating the situation on the LAC, China was undertaking provocative actions to escalate the row.
“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing,” the statement said.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity, however is 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 Theater Command had said that Indian soldiers illegally crossed the LAC and fired warning shots, forcing the PLA to take countermeasures.
At a meeting in Moscow on 4 September, Singh made it clear to the Chinese defence minister that India was fully determined to defend its frontiers. He told his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, 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 the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The latest round of tensions flared up in the Ladakh sector after the army occupied key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Lake to stop the PLA from grabbing Indian territory in a stealthy midnight move on 29 August.
China made another provocative move on 31 August, 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.
Last week, Singh said that the Chinese side should work with India for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas, including the Pangong Lake, and for de-escalation in border areas in accordance with bilateral agreements.