Dozens of Chinese soldiers have set up camp in a Himalayan region claimed by India, Indian government sources have said, signaling a potential renewal of border tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops entered Indian-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh and erected a camp at night on Monday last week, the sources said.
Meanwhile, troops from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have set up a camp 300m opposite the tents pitched by the Chinese, the sources said.
New Delhi is confident it can settle the high-altitude territorial dispute “peacefully” through diplomatic channels, the sources added.
India and China have an unresolved frontier dispute, and relations are often prickly and marked by mutual suspicion — a legacy of a brief border war in 1962 that was waged in Ladakh and in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Asian giants have held numerous sets of talks to resolve the future of their disputed regions, but have made little progress.
A senior Indian government source said the nations are in touch via a working committee set up to defuse India-China border tensions.
India says China, which inflicted a bloody defeat on Indian forces in the 1962 war, occupies 38,000km2 of its Himalayan territory, while Beijing claims all of Arunachal Pradesh, an area of 90,000km2.
The de facto border separating China and India is known as the Line of Actual Control. While it has never been formally demarcated, the countries signed two accords to maintain peace in frontier areas in 1993 and 1996.
“As regards the distance that the Chinese are inside [Indian territory], this is an area where there have been differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control,” the Indian government source said.
However, the Press Trust of India news agency reported the Chinese platoon of about 50 soldiers was 10km inside the line in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector that has an Indian military airstrip.
“The Indian government chooses to underplay Chinese actions so as not to provoke greater aggressiveness,” veteran Indian foreign policy analyst Brahma Chellaney wrote in a recent column for Mint newspaper.
However, he said government figures show the number of stealthy Chinese forays into territory claimed by India has steadily increased.