China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday dismissed reports this week of a recent military buildup by China along its border with India as a “routine” activity.
“[I]t is routine for the Indian and Chinese armies to make deployments along the border in summer, with experts warning India not to misjudge the situation and trigger a new round of conflict,” the Global Times wrote, referencing a report published by India Today on May 17 alleging that Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers had deployed to locations along China’s western Himalayan border with India in recent days.
“Chinese forces are back to their traditional training areas for an exercise near Eastern Ladakh,” anonymous sources allegedly told India Today this week. Ladakh is a northern Indian state that borders the western Chinese territory of Xinjiang.
“The Chinese troops are there in large numbers holding exercises at different locations in their depth areas from where they can reach the Indian front in a matter of few hours,” the sources said.
“The Indian forces have also strengthened their deployment in the area as they are keeping a close watch on the Chinese activities in the adjoining sectors,” the sources added.
An ongoing border standoff between China and India sparked last summer after Himalayan regiments from both sides brawled over China’s encroachment into Indian territory in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020. The skirmish killed 20 Indian soldiers and a reported 40 Chinese troops, though Beijing never officially confirmed more than two PLA deaths from the clash. Both China and India deployed extra troops and military equipment to their unmarked Himalayan border in the weeks and months following the Galwan Valley skirmish.
Gunshots were fired along the India-China border, officially called the Line of Actual Control (LAC), on September 7, 2020, for the first time in 45 years in another clash between the two sides near Pangong Tso Lake, which spans the LAC. Days later, Indian and Chinese media reports claimed that Indian troops had overtaken a strategic mountaintop along the rim of Pangong Tso that China claims as its own territory. China ordered a massive withdrawal of its forces from the LAC in subsequent months and had reportedly recalled as many as 10,000 border troops by January 2021.
India Today’s report this week that China has allegedly begun returning PLA troops to the LAC near Ladakh indicates that Beijing’s recent troop withdrawal may have been, at least in part, due to seasonal weather conditions, which make the high-altitude, Himalayan border extremely difficult to navigate during the winter.