SRINAGAR, India — India said Monday its soldiers thwarted China’s “provocative” military movements near a disputed border in Ladakh region months into their deadliest standoff in decades.
A statement by India’s defence ministry on Monday said China’s People’s Liberation Army on Saturday night “carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo” and “violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements” to settle the standoff in the cold-desert region.
It said Indian troops preempted the Chinese military activity on the southern bank of Pangong Lake. The glacial lake is divided by the de facto frontier between the rivals and is one of the three sites where the India-China faceoff began in early May.
The statement said Indian troops “undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground.”
China did not immediately comment.
The statement said the two countries local military commanders met along the disputed frontier on Monday to “resolve the issues.” It said India was committed to dialogue “but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity.”
Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks to end the current crisis in Ladakh have been unsuccessful.
The disputed and undemarcated 3,500-kilometre (2,175-mile) border between India and China stretches from Ladakh in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim. The two Asia giants fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh. The two countries have been trying to settle their border dispute since the early 1990s, without success.
The ongoing standoff high in the Karakoram mountains is over disputed portions of a pristine landscape that boasts the world’s highest landing strip, a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world, and a critical link to China’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.
The faceoff began at three places. Soldiers at the 134 kilometres- (84-miles) long scenic lake ignored repeated verbal warnings, triggering a yelling match, stone-throwing and even fistfights. By June it escalated and spread to two other places toward the north in Depsang and Galwan Valley where India has built an all-weather military road along the disputed frontier.
On June 15, the situation turned deadly when the rival troops engaged in a nighttime medieval clash in Galwan.
According to Indian officials, Chinese troops atop a ridge at the mouth of the narrow valley threw stones, punched and pushed Indian soldiers down a ridge at around 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) leaving 20 Indians dead, including a colonel. China did not report any casualties.
It was the deadliest conflict in 45 years between the nuclear-armed rivals. Accusing each other of instigating the violence, both sides pledged to safeguard their territory but also to try to end the standoff that dramatically changed India-China bilateral relationship.
Aijaz Hussain, The Associated Press