China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday blamed the Indian army for the latest flare-up in tension at Pangong Tso near the line of actual control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh and demanded that India withdraw its troops from the area.
In a statement issued late on Monday evening, the PLA’s western theatre command (WTC) alleged Indian soldiers violated the LAC and crossed over in the south bank of Pangong Tso and the Reqin pass.
It also warned that the PLA were taking “countermeasures”.
The Chinese military statement did not refer to any ongoing meeting at the ground to douse the new flare-up.
Official news agency, Xinhua quoted WTC spokesperson Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili as saying “…on August 31, the Indian army broke the consensus reached at the previous multi-level talks between the two sides and illegally crossed the line again near the south bank of Pangong Lake and the Reqin pass, making a blatant provocation and causing tension at the border”.
“China is strongly opposed to the Indian move, which grossly violates China’s territorial sovereignty, seriously undermines peace and stability in the China-India border areas, reneges on its commitments and betrays its loyalty,” Zhang said in the strongly-worded statement.
Zhang said India should restrain its frontline troops and withdraw from the region.
“We solemnly request the Indian side to immediately withdraw its illegal occupation and control forces, strictly control and restrain its frontline troops, earnestly abide by its commitments and avoid further escalation of the situation,” Zhang said.
The spokesperson further added: “The Chinese military is taking necessary countermeasures and will closely follow the developments to resolutely safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and peace and stability in border areas.”
The tone of the military statement was similar to the statement that the WTC had issued on June 16, a day after the deadly clash at Galwan Valley near the LAC.
The PLA statement from the military was issued hours after the Chinese foreign ministry said Chinese troops troops “strictly’’ abide by the LAC with India, refuting the Indian army’s statement that said the Chinese armed forces had carried out provocative military actions on the southern banks of the Pangong Tso.
Responding to a question on the Indian army statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said the troops of the PLA never cross the line.
“Chinese border troops always strictly abide by the LAC. They never cross the line. Border troops on the two sides have been in close communication regarding the issues on the ground,” ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said.
Asked about any ongoing meetings to resolve this new development, he said: “What I said is that the two sides through diplomatic and military channels maintain close communication. As to specific meetings and talks, if there is anything, we will release it in a timely manner”.
Earlier in the day, the Indian army accused Chinese soldiers of trying to alter the status quo.
The statement said Indian troops had been able to pre-empt the PLA from trying to change the facts on the ground.
A Brigade Commander-level flag meeting is said to be in progress at Chushul to resolve the issues on the ground.
There have been several meetings between the two sides to disengage after border troops clashed in Galwan Valley on June 15, which led to casualties on both sides.
Chinese troops have been slow to pull back, particularly around Pangong Tso, the saltwater glacial lake spread across 700 sq km.
The Chinese effort to enlarge the border row came just two days after the defence ministry in Beijing told India that it should look at the “big picture of bilateral ties” and work with it and take concrete steps to bring the relationship back on the “right track of normal development.”
India has made it clear that China should work on complete disengagement, and then de-escalation of troops in eastern Ladakh, underlining that this can be achieved only through mutually agreed reciprocal actions. The message from New Delhi has been that the Indian army will stay firm on Chinese efforts to alter the status quo and has stressed that the PLA will have to return to their April 20 position.