India has moved decisively to reinforce its position on its mutual border with China by seizing contested high ground on the southern bank of the Pangong lake, Ladahk, that it alleges China has designs on. The Indian Army has occupied at least thirty key points in the area so as to prevent China seizing the ground.
According to a release by the Indian Ministry of Defence, on the night of 29/30 August troops of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out “provocative moves” aimed at taking additional territory that is claimed by both countries. Indian troops pre-empted the move and seized the disputed territory first.
A report in the Daily Telegraph states that in the incident in question five hundred Chinese troops tried to cross into Spanggur, a narrow valley near the village of Chushul. Three hours of hand-to-hand combat ensued when they encountered Indian soldiers. No images or footage of the fighting have emerged at the time of writing.
The Indian army responded by dispatching elements from an elite mountain warfare unit, the Vikas Regiment – composed of exile Tibetan and Gurkha troops, which seized a Chinese battalion base in the area very early on 30 August. Though the nature of the fighting is not clear reports are that one Vikas soldier was killed in the operation.
A Chinese government spokesperson stated that their troops “…never cross the Line [-of-Control (the de facto border)]. Perhaps there are some communication issues. I think both sides should stick to facts and have goodwill in maintaining the bilateral relations and take concrete measures to safeguard peace, tranquillity along the border.”
The actions have ratcheted up tensions once again, which previously peaked in June after twenty Indian soldiers and an undetermined number of PLA were killed in hand to hand fighting. The two countries had been in talks to avert such situations arising again but these had recently stalled.
The problems with China has caused India to accelerate its military purchases, including new Rafale fighter jets from France, as well as reassess its current military equipment standards with an eye to major upgrading of the military’s future war-fighting abilities.