Indian Army rejects PLA claim of military provocation in Ladakh
The Army on Tuesday said Chinese troops fired shots in the air and attempted to close in on an Indian position in eastern Ladakh a day earlier as it rejected charges by China's People's Liberation Army(PLA) that it transgressed across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The remarks by the Army came after the PLA late on Monday night alleged that the Indian troops crossed the LAC and "outrageously fired" warning shots near the Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh.
The use of firearms along the LAC marks a serious escalation in border tensions as the previous instance of shots being fired at the de-facto border was in 1975.
India and China exchanged accusations just four days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe held talks in Moscow on ways to ease tensions at the border. They met last Friday on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet.
In a statement, the Indian Army said that at no stage the Indian troops crossed the LAC or resorted to use of any "aggressive means", including firing, as alleged by the Chinese PLA.
"At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing. It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manuveres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress," the Army said.
"In the instant case on September 7, 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 (Indian) troops, PLA troops fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate own troops," the statement added.
It further said that despite the "grave provocation", Indian troops exercised "great restraint" and behaved in a mature and responsible manner.
The Army termed the statement issued by the Western Theater Command of the PLA as an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience.
"The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility, however is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs," the Army said.
"India, while is committed to disengagement and de-escalating the situation on the LAC, China continues to undertake provocative activities to escalate."
Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, a spokesperson of PLA's Western Theater Command, in a statement on Monday night alleged that Indian troops again illegally crossed the LAC and "outrageously fired" warning shots on Chinese border patrol soldiers who were about to negotiate.
Chinese troops were forced to take countermeasures to stabilize the situation, he said without elaborating.
The Indian troops crossed the LAC at the west section of the China-India border into the Shenpao mountain region near the south bank of Pangong lake, he alleged.
Separately, the Ministry of External Affairs termed as false reports in Chinese media attributing some comments to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
"We have seen reports in Chinese state media, including in China Daily and Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times), which had attributed some comments to NSA Shri Ajit Doval. These reports are completely false and are not based in facts. We urge the media to refrain from such speculative reporting," it said in a release.
Tensions escalated manifold along the LAC in eastern Ladakh after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.
The border situation deteriorated again after China unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the southern bank of Pangong lake on the intervening night of August 29 and 30.
India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any Chinese actions.
China has strongly objected to India's move. However, India has maintained that the heights are on its side of the LAC.
India has also rushed in additional troops and weapons to the sensitive region following China's transgression attempts.
Following China's fresh attempts to change the status quo in the southern bank of Pangong lake, India has further bolstered its military presence in the region.