Renewed conflict on the China-India border? The Hindustan Times reported on 31 August that the Indian military issued a statement that day, accusing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of carrying out “provocative military activities” on the southern shore of Bangong Lake during the night of 29 to 30 August. According to the statement, the Indian army pre-emptively thwarted China’s attempt to “unilaterally change the status quo” on the ground. In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on August 31 that China’s border defense forces have always strictly abided by the Line of Actual Control and have never crossed the line. He also stressed that the border guards of the two countries have always maintained communication on local issues.
According to Indian media, the Indian military claimed that the Chinese side “violated the consensus reached through military and diplomatic contacts between the two sides during the confrontation in eastern Ladakh. However, the statement did not specify the nature of the so-called “Chinese provocation” or detail how the Indian military prevented the action. The statement also said that China and India were holding brigadier-level talks in Chusul to resolve these issues. India Today on August 31 quoted informed sources as saying, “As of now, there has been no physical clash between Indian and Chinese troops on the southern shore of Bangong Lake”.
The Indian side’s claim was refuted by PLA’s Western War Zone spokesman, Colonel Zhang Zhuli on August 31. He said that on August 31, the Indian army violated the consensus reached by the two sides in earlier multi-level talks and once again illegally crossed the line to occupy control on the southern shore of Bangong Lake and near the Rechin Pass, blatantly provoking and causing tensions on the border. The Indian side’s move seriously violated China’s territorial sovereignty, severely undermined peace and stability in the China-India border region, went back on its word and betrayed (China’s) trust. China strongly opposes this. “We sternly demand that the Indian side immediately withdraw its troops that have illegally crossed the line to occupy and control (the area), strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly abide by its commitments and avoid further escalation of the situation”, the Chinese side said. The Chinese Army is taking necessary countermeasures and will closely monitor the development of the situation and resolutely safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and peace and stability in the border areas”.
Qian Feng, Director of the Research Department of the National Institute for Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on August 31 that this illegal crossing of the border by India was because it was not satisfied with the previous rounds of negotiations and because it believed that the Chinese side did not accept its negotiating terms. In order to gain advantage in the next round of negotiations, it therefore chose to make trouble in a new place. India thinks it sees through China and believes that China will choose to let things settle down, especially now that it is busy responding to US pressure, and not take tough measures against India. India’s adventurous mentality is extremely harmful. Qian Feng believes that the current difficulties in China-India relations highlight the importance of implementing the previous consensus between the two leaders. China’s policy towards India remains unchanged, and it also hopes that China-India relations can return to the right track as soon as possible. But over this period of time, India’s irrational retaliation against China, whether in economic terms, or part of the politicians/media clamor for anti-China rhetoric, have greatly harmed the foundation of China-India relations. If this continues, it will be difficult for China-India relations to return to the past.
The India Today website reported on August 28 that China is building a 5G network in the Leh region, including starting new infrastructure construction on the shores of Bangong Lake. The article claims that Chinese troops are mobilizing near the Line of Actual Control, prompting India to continue to send additional troops to the Leh area. The number of Indian Army deployments has increased threefold. Even as winter approaches, the Indian Army will continue to deploy additional troops.
According to another Indian media report, the Indian Army is supplying special winter clothing to more than 30,000 soldiers deployed in the Leh area as the Sino-Indian border standoff is likely to continue. India Today said on August 27 that the Indian Army has now drawn up a detailed plan of arrangements to ensure that the necessary supplies, such as snowsuits, shelters and food, are provided in advance to meet the needs of the soldiers stationed in the area. This is expected to cost 3.5 billion to 4 billion rupees (328 million to 375 million yuan), spread over about 100,000 rupees ($9,389) for special equipment for each soldier.