China, India accuse each other of provocative moves, warning shots along border
India and China accused each other Tuesday of making provocative military moves and firing warning shots along their disputed border despite talks on ending the escalating tensions between the two Asian giants.
China said Indian forces crossed Monday into territory it holds and fired warning shots at a Chinese patrol in what it called a violation of their agreements. India denied that and said Chinese soldiers tried to surround one of its forward posts in a “grave provocation” and also fired warning shots.
China described it as the first exchange of fire between the countries in 45 years.
The nuclear-armed rivals have been engaged in a tense standoff in the cold desert Ladakh region since May, and their defense ministers met Friday in Moscow in the first high-level direct contact between the sides since the standoff began.
China’s western military command said the incursion occurred Monday along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in an area known in China as Shenpaoshan and in India as Chushul. The two countries’ local military commanders have held several rounds of talks to defuse the standoff.
After shots were fired, Chinese forces took “necessary measures to stabilize and control the situation,” the Chinese command said in a statement citing spokesman Zhang Shuili. It demanded that Indian forces withdraw and investigate the move to open fire.
As a military standoff between India and China along their disputed mountain border protracts, experts say the nuclear-armed countries could slide into war.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in Beijing said it was the first exchange of fire between the sides since 1975, despite the recent increase in clashes.
“We, the Chinese side, [have] been been stressing repeatedly that the two sides should peacefully settle our differences through dialogue and consultation. Confrontation will not benefit either side,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
Col. Aman Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said China was continuing to conduct “provocative activities to escalate” tensions and called the Chinese military statement an attempt to mislead.
Anand said the Chinese soldiers tried to surround an Indian military post and fired a few shots in the air when the Indian soldiers “dissuaded” them. He said Indian troops “exercised great restraint.”
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He accused China’s military of “blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive maneuvers while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress.”
There was no word of casualties on either side.
Late last month, India said its soldiers thwarted Chinese military moves “to change the status quo” in violation of a consensus reached in past efforts to settle the standoff. In turn, China accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control.
The activities last month and on Monday were alleged to have occurred on the southern bank of Pangong Lake, a glacial lake divided by the de facto frontier.
The standoff escalated into a nighttime clash June 15 that was the deadliest conflict in 45 years between the countries. According to Indian officials, Chinese troops atop a ridge at the mouth of the narrow Galwan Valley threw stones, punched and pushed Indian soldiers down the ridge at an altitude of about 15,000 feet. India said 20 of its soldiers were killed, including a colonel. China did not report any casualties.
The two countries fought a border war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. They have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.
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