China on Tuesday said its troops were forced to take “countermeasures” after Indian soldiers crossed their tense Himalayan border and opened fire – a charge New Delhi has denied, as the two countries continue with their rhetoric.
The relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours has deteriorated since a clash in the Ladakh region on June 15 in which 20 Indian troops were killed.
Beijing’s defence ministry accused India of “severe military provocation” after soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western border region on Monday and “opened fire to threaten the Chinese border defence patrol officers”.
“The Chinese border defence troops were forced to take corresponding countermeasures to stabilise the terrain situation,” said Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The statement did not make clear what those measures were or whether Chinese troops also fired warning shots.
China’s western military command said the incursion occurred on Monday along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in the area known in Chinese as Shenpaoshan. On the Indian side, the area is known as Chushul where the two countries’ local military commanders have held several rounds of talks to defuse the tense standoff.
‘India denies transgression’
Zhang said India had violated agreements reached by the two countries and warned their actions could “easily cause misunderstandings and misjudgements”.
“We request the Indian side to immediately stop dangerous actions … and strictly investigate and punish personnel who fired shots to ensure that similar incidents do not occur again,” Zhang said in the statement.
The Indian Army has denied its troops “transgressed across the LAC” or resorted to “firing”. “It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres,” the army said in a statement on Tuesday.
India has deployed thousands of soldiers following deadly border clashes in June [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]
“The statement by PLA Western Theatre Command is an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience,” it said.
Late last month, India said its soldiers thwarted the Chinese military’s moves “to change the status quo” in violation of a consensus reached in past efforts to settle the standoff. In turn, China also accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control.
The activity last month and on Monday was alleged to have occurred in Chushul area on the southern bank of Pangong Lake, a glacial lake divided by the de facto frontier and where the India-China face-off began on its northern flank in early May.
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Both sides have sent tens of thousands of troops to the disputed Himalayan border, which sits at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres (13,500 feet).
Their troops have had several showdowns since the deadly clash on June 15. China has also acknowledged suffering casualties but not given figures.
Defence ministers from the countries talked in Moscow on the sidelines of an international meeting last week – with both sides later releasing rival statements accusing each other of inflaming the showdown.
And earlier this week an Indian minister said Delhi had alerted China to allegations five men had been abducted by the People’s Liberation Army close to the disputed border in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
There was no immediate comment or confirmation of Monday’s incident from the Indian military.