New Delhi: India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with neighbour China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.
China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armoured vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by Chinese army, the official said.
The stand-off began on May 5, when troops clashed on the banks of Pangong Tso — a glacial lake at 14,000 feet in the Tibetan plateau — leaving scores of soldiers on both sides injured. Since then there has been a steady build up of troops amid continuing face-offs.
Diplomats in New Delhi and Beijing have begun talks after negotiations between Indian and Chinese military officials on May 22 and 23 brought no results, the official said. China’s move to step up incursions at two different locations along the 3,488km undemarcated border is a deviation from its earlier attempts to gain territory after the two nations fought a war in 1962, according to the officials.
Beijing was committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the border areas, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a regular briefing Wednesday. The situation was stable and the issues can be resolved through dialogue and consultation, he said. China has previously noted the border has never been officially drawn, leading to territorial disputes from time to time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday discussed the stand-off with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and chiefs of its three armed services.
China’s actions along the border coincide with its attempts to consolidate political and strategic positions across Asia. Its decision to introduce new laws in Hong Kong is threatening to worsen already strained ties with the US, it has raised tensions in the South China Sea China by disrupting the efforts of Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia as they seek to exploit oil, gas and fishing resources off their shores, while Beijing also waged a sustained campaign to prevent Taiwan from rejoining the World Health Organisation.
The world’s second-largest economy has been facing criticism from the US, Europe and Australia for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that was first reported in China’s Hubei province. China, in turn, has accused the US of pushing the world into a “new Cold War”.
The current tensions with India may have been triggered by the completion of a road and bridge in the Galwan sector in Ladakh, the government official said. Under Modi, India has been building border infrastructure, which it says isn’t aimed at any particular country, but rather the development of remote areas. It has completed 74 strategic roads along the eastern border, with plans afoot to finish 20 more by next year.
Although Chinese border aggressions rose last year when India changed the status of the Ladakh province in August 2019 to bring it under the control of the federal government, this stand-off between the nuclear-armed neighbours is more serious than the Doklam conflict in 2017, officials said.
The two nations haven’t fired bullets at the border since the 1967 Nathu La stand-off conflicts have been limited to staring down and physical restraining of soldiers.