Indian Army Confirms ‘Face-Off’ with Intruding Chinese Forces on Border

Indian army soldiers look towards the site of a gun battle on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. A gun battle between rebels and government forces overnight killed three rebels on the outskirts of Srinagar on Wednesday, officials said. (AP Photo/ Dar Yasin)
Dar Yasin/AP Photo

The Indian Army on Monday confirmed that “a minor face-off” between Indian and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) border troops took place last week in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, which neighbors Tibet.

“We have received several queries regarding a face-off between Indian Army and PLA troops in Sikkim sector. It is clarified that there was a minor face-off at Naku La area of North Sikkim on January 20 and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols,” the Indian Army said in a statement released January 25.

Multiple Indian media outlets reported on the incident on January 24, with some describing the conflict as a physical altercation that resulted in injuries on “both sides.”

“There are reports of a fresh physical brawl having taken place between Indian and Chinese troops, this time at Naku La in Sikkim, thousands of kilometers away from the ongoing standoff at the Line of Actual Control [LAC] in eastern Ladakh,” India’s Times Now news site relayed on Sunday. The LAC is India’s official name for its unmarked Himalayan border with China.

“The clash took place … when the troops of the [Chinese] People’s Liberation Army attempted to intrude inside Indian territory,” Times Now wrote. “The Indian Army troops foiled the intrusion bid and physical clashes ensued, in which soldiers from both sides were reported to be injured.”

“Sources said no firearms were used during the clash. The situation is reported to be under control now,” the news site added.

The Indian Army in its statement on Monday suggested that certain reports on the January 20 conflict may have been inaccurate.

“The media is requested to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating reports which are factually incorrect,” an Indian Army spokesperson said on Monday, without referencing any specific details reported about the incident.

“There have been minor frictions between the frontline forces of the two countries,” China’s state-run Global Times reported on Monday, acknowledging China’s January 20 face-off with India. The newspaper likewise dismissed Indian media reports alleging injuries sustained on both sides as “fake news.”

The January 20 confrontation occurred four days before Indian and Chinese army commanders met in the northwestern Indian state of Ladakh to discuss solutions to their ongoing border standoff, which has remained unresolved since last May. The January 24 meeting marked the ninth round of official military talks to address the stalemate. The summit lasted nearly 16 hours, according to WION News, during which “the two sides held detailed deliberations on disengagement of troops from all friction points in eastern Ladakh.”

New Delhi is expected to release further details of the dialogue to the public once the Indian Army commanders brief the Indian Prime Minister’s office about the meeting.

China acknowledged on Monday that its PLA commanders met with their Indian Army counterparts on January 24 to discuss the border standoff.

“I can confirm to you that a new round of talks was indeed held between China and India. Following our agreement, both sides will release the information as early as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regularly scheduled press conference on January 25.

Indian and Chinese border troops previously clashed in the Naku La area of North Sikkim on May 9, 2020, and on the intervening night of May 5 and 6, 2020. The two incidents caused “injuries to several soldiers on both sides,” the Hindu reported at the time, citing Indian Army sources.

Indian and Chinese border regiments engaged in hand-to-hand combat in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15 in a clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 40 Chinese troops. The incident was the deadliest border conflict between India and China in 45 years and sparked the ongoing standoff between the two Asian neighbors, though tensions between the two nations in the Himalayas had preceded the skirmish.

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