With the 13th round of talks on the border dispute impending, India and China soldiers were engaged in a brief face-off in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh, along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), last week.
This took place after a Chinese patrol tried to enter the Indian territory. An official said rival patrols came face-to-face in a contested area near Yangtse, with the soldiers asking each other to retreat to their respective sides.
“The face-off lasted a few hours before the matter was resolved at the level of local commanders,” a second official said. “Both sides undertake patrolling activities up to their perception of the border. Whenever patrols of both sides physically meet, the situation is managed according to established protocols and mechanisms. Physical engagement can last for a few hours prior to disengaging as per mutual understanding. This is routine business.”
Government officials downplayed the situation saying that Tawang sector is prone to such incidents – but this time, such an incident between the two sides has happened after a long time. A similar incident had taken place in 2016 as well.
This incident comes weeks after Chinese patrols of about 100 soldiers crossed LAC in the central sector in Uttarakhand on August 30, damaging a footbridge before they went back to their side. This area is manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
Former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd) said China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plans to keep the entire border active so that they can keep reinforcing their claims. “It can also be an act of creeping assertiveness to subsequently lay a claim to these areas.” Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said the situation on the LAC was under control and outstanding problems with PLA could be resolved through talks.
Outstanding problems at Hot Springs, or Patrolling Point-15, which is one of the friction points on the LAC, could be taken up during the 13th round of talks. The two sides carried out the second round of disengagement in early August when they pulled back their forward-deployed troops from Gogra, or Patrolling Point-17A, with the breakthrough coming after the 12th round of military talks.
India and China have been locked in a border standoff for 17 months and both sides are in dialogue to reduce tensions following the Galwan Valley skirmish in June 2020.