India China border in LadakhReuters

Tension at the border increased after a fresh confrontation between the Indian Army and Chinese troops took place in the eastern Ladakh region, ahead of the scheduled joint Indian military war games in Arunachal Pradesh.

The confrontation between the two militaries began at dawn, at the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake, reported The Times of India. Two-thirds of the 134 km-long lake is controlled by China.

"Indian soldiers were on a patrol when they were confronted by People's Liberation Army soldiers, who strongly objected to their presence in the area. This led to a scuffle between the rival soldiers, with both sides sending some reinforcements to the area," a source told the daily, adding that the confrontation continued till the evening. 

Indian Army, in response to the inquiry relating to the incident, stated that talks led by high ranking military officers were sought and an agreement by both sides was made as per bilateral mechanism. 

A military officer said such incidents are frequent in the area due to differing perceptions of where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) really lies. "They are usually solved through border personnel meetings, flag meetings and the like," said the officer. 

Indian and Chinese soldiers had earlier clashed in the Pangong Tso region on August 15, 2017, where hand-to-hand alteration, as well as stones and iron rods, were used to injure one another.

The incident also coincided with the then-ongoing Doklam standoff at a trijunction border area connecting Bhutan, India and China, that lasted for 73 days. Indian and Chinese troops called off the stand-off in Doklam, following multiple rounds of diplomatic talks between the two countries.

Indian Soldiers at Chinese Border
Representational Image.Reuters

However, despite assurances of bilateral cooperation, various reports have indicated Chinese military incursions inside India, including the incident in July where Chinese officials dressed in civilian clothes entered Ladakh's Demchok region to stop Dalai Lama's birthday celebrations.

Recently, on September 4, Arunachal Pradesh's BJP MP Tapir Gao claimed China's People's Liberation Army had intruded 60 kilometres inside the Indian territory and built bridges. Citing videos provided to him by party workers, Gao claimed that Chinese troops built a bridge last month over Kiomru Nullah in Chaglagam circle region.

A report by the Indo-Tibetian Border Police (ITBP) in 2018 stated that Chinese troops had crossed the LAC into Ladakh 14 times between August 4 and August 19 alone. 

Indian military drill

The latest clash also took place ahead of the joint military exercise "Him Vijay" that is scheduled to take place in Arunachal Pradesh in October as part of Army Chief Bipin Rawat's military reconstruction. The wargame is believed to be conducted at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit India for the second informal summit, following the 2018 Wuhan summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

China was not informed of the wargame, which will test new integrated battle groups (IBG), as it would not take place at Arunachal's border region.

Around three IBGs, comprising soldiers from the 17 Mountain Strike Corps, Tezpur-based 4 Corps and the Indian Air Force will be witnessed during "Him Vijay".

"As part of the war games, the troops of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps will be deployed at a high altitude location to defend their 'territory' while a brigade-sized force (over 2,500 troops) of the 17 Mountain Strike Corps would be airlifted by the Indian Air Force to 'launch an offensive' against them," a top military official told ANI.

Indian Air Force's C-17, C-130K, AN-32 aircraft and a helicopter will be deployed to test the mountain warfare capabilities of operations, viability and logistics.

The newly raised 17 strike corps will comprise troops from the 59 Mountain Division. It will include armoured regiments with battle tanks and infantry combat vehicles along with light howitzers and strike elements, according to The Economic Times.

The 17 strike corps is India's only offensive warfare formation to attack enemy positions along the China border. The wargame is reported to be one of the biggest military exercises and the first wargame by strike corps to take place in the eastern region.