India Increases Air Presence on Chinese Border After Troop Brawl

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft pictured during a fire-power demonstration on February 16, 2019.
Patrick Singh/AFP

The Indian Air Force (IAF) ordered fighter jets to conduct regular sorties over its border with China in the northern Ladakh region, the Times of India reported on Tuesday, after a scuffle between troops there.

The IAF was forced to order patrols of the area after Chinese military helicopters were seen last week flying close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), an aerial buffer zone between the two nations.

The IAF’s air patrols come amid heightened tension along the Indian-Chinese border. On May 9, about 150 Indian and Chinese troops on the ground along the border in North Sikkim fought hand-to-hand in a violent clash that left several soldiers on both sides injured. Shortly after this skirmish, Chinese helicopters were spotted flying near Indian airspace, the Hindustan Times reports.

“The Chinese military helicopters were flying very close to the [LAC]. After their movement was picked up, the Indian Air Force fighter jets flew patrols in the area,” Indian government sources told Asian News International (ANI), as reported by the Hindustan Times.

The Chinese helicopters “did not cross the LAC into Indian territory in that particular area,” an anonymous government source told the newspaper.

The IAF’s Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet fleet flies “frequently” from Leh airbase in Ladakh along with other planes as part of regular operations and also to send a “deterrence signal” to China according to the Times of India.

The Indian-Chinese border has witnessed numerous scuffles and face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops since 1962 when the two sides fought a war over the disputed Himalayan border. Prior to May 9, the most notable confrontation in Ladakh took place in 2017. The brawl, captured on video, saw troops throw punches and stones at each other, although, as in last week’s confrontation, no guns were drawn.

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