Military tension spikes as India accuses China of new ‘provocative’ move

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar, India, Aug 31 (efe-epa).- Border tension between India and China has spiked again amid allegations that Chinese troops carried out “provocative military movements” near a disputed Himalayan boundary in the eastern Ladakh sector, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a physical brawl in June.

Indian authorities have also closed the only surface link to Ladakh in India’s extreme north, bordering the arid desert area of Aksai Chin in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

The Indian Army in a rare statement about the current military standoff between the two neighbors said the movements by the Chinese soldiers were carried out on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake, also known as the Chushul sector, on Saturday.

The Indian side pre-empted the move and strengthened its positions, he said, in the high-altitude border region that has been the center of a major military confrontation between the two sides.

However, the statement didn’t say if there was a fresh clash involving the armies of the rival nuclear powers.

“On the Night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo,” Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said in the statement.

“Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground,” the spokesperson said.

Colonel Anand said India was committed to maintaining peace and tranquility through dialog.

However, he warned that the Indian Army “is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity.”

The spokesperson said that senior military commanders were holding a flag meeting in the Chushul sector. But there was no immediate comment from the Chinese side.

Authorities have also closed the only road link to Ladakh, the Srinagar-Leh national highway, for civilian traffic, according to defense sources.

“Only army vehicles will ply on the road till further orders,” a source told EFE in Srinagar, without elaborating on what prompted the move.

Residents in the area confirmed this, saying dozens of civilian vehicles were not allowed to move from Sonamarg, a tourist resort on the highway.

Local visitors who had gone to the resort for a weekend retreat were told by police and civil authorities on Monday morning to leave quickly because the area has been put under lockdown due to a fresh coronavirus outbreak.

“We were asked to move back to Srinagar because they said there is a lockdown and no one will be allowed into the resort,” Syed Abdul Kibriya, who had gone there with his family, told EFE.

“But, we saw army convoys and armored vehicles in huge numbers plying on the highway and moving towards Ladakh,” Kibriya said, as he was returning home in Srinagar.

The eastern frontier of Ladakh has been the source of confrontation and a long stand-off between the two sides that began in early May, with a massive build-up of troops along the de facto border called the Line of Actual of Control.

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and dozens more were wounded during a clash in the Galwan valley of Ladakh. The two sides later agreed to pull back from the points of confrontation.

However, several rounds of talks later, troops remain engaged in the impasse at several border points, including the high-altitude lake of Pangong Tso. Both sides claim sovereignty over the lake and its surrounding areas. EFE-EPA

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