Indian border guards stopped a Chinese incursion on the shores of the Pangong Lake in the Ladakh sector, opening up a new hotspot on the tense Indo-China border. The skirmish comes as the Indian troops continue to camp in the Doklam area near the Indo-Sino-Bhutan tri-junction area in Sikkim sector which has caused the establishments on both sides to engage in a war of words. The incident along the Ladakh border led to stone pelting between the troops, and both sides are said to have sustained injuries.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hu Chunying denied knowledge of any incursion along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Ladakh, adding that Chinese patrols stick to their side of the border. This has been the usual stand of the Chinese establishment when accused by the Indian side of incursions into Indian territory, and the disturbance in the Ladakh sector is feared to be part of a larger posturing strategy by Beijing who wants to pressure India to pull its troops out of the Doklam region.
The face off in Doklam began about 50 days ago, when China attempted to extend an unpaved road into a disputed territory with Bhutan. India, which stations upto 400 troops in a camp just 13 miles off the disputed border, sent troops to block the construction, apparently as a move to protect the sovereignty of its Himalayan neighbor. However, the face off has snowballed into an international crisis as the two countries have stuck to their guns in the area, both refusing to withdraw. The disputed area is of strategic importance to India as it slopes into the valleys in India that connect the landlocked seven sister states to central India, a region that the Indian Army refers to as the Chicken’s Neck. In the event of war, India fears that China would seize it and split its territory and forces.
The Chinese tactic of claiming territory by extending construction in disputed areas is not new – disputed waters in the South China Sea have been claimed by transforming reefs into islands by the PLA and India sees the move in Doklam as another measure by China to further its strategic advantage in the region.