An Indian army convoy drives towards a highway bordering China, June 19 2020. Picture: YAWAR NAZIR/GETTY IMAGES
An Indian army convoy drives towards a highway bordering China, June 19 2020. Picture: YAWAR NAZIR/GETTY IMAGES

New Delhi  — India and China relations have entered a critical new phase after fresh conflict along their disputed Himalayan border, after multiple rounds of high-level military talks failed to end the months-long standoff.

The defence ministry in New Delhi said on Monday its soldiers were able to stop a push by Chinese troops to claim more ground late on Saturday in violation of existing agreements.

Beijing denied its troops had strayed into Indian territory and said it was in close communication with New Delhi, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing in Beijing on Monday. “Chinese border troops always strictly abide by the Line of Actual Control,” Zhao said.

The Indian army undermined the consensus reached in previous talks between the two sides and once again illegally crossed the line on the south bank of Pangong Tso, the People’s Liberation Army in the region said late on Monday evening.

The latest skirmish took place along Pangong Tso, a glacial lake, along the 3,488km border. Both India and China have moved thousands of troops, tanks, artillery guns and fighter jets close to the border since their standoff began in May.

“This seems like it will be the new normal,” said Vipin Narang, associate professor in security studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The Chinese may poke just to force the Indians to defend a huge area of territory, at great cost to the Indian armed forces and government. This seems to be far from over and India needs to be — and is preparing — for a long haul.”

‘Deliberate move’

The number of casualties or captured troops is not yet clear, and while there’s a high-level military meeting in progress to resolve the tensions, India’s military is fully deployed along the disputed border.

India’s benchmark stock index S&P BSE Sensex plunged 2.1% in Mumbai, the biggest drop since May 18. The rupee weakened 0.3%.

This fresh attempted incursion by Chinese troops is significant and was not carried out by local commanders alone, said retired vice-marshal Manmohan Bahadur, the additional director-general of New Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies.

“It appears to be a  planned and deliberate move,” Bahadur said. “China, it appears, is trying to change the alignment of the Line of Actual Control  and put further pressure on Indian positions.”

India and China’s worst dispute in four decades culminated in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers in an ugly battle on June 15.

Since then tensions have continued to simmer, with India revealing in late July it was positioning an additional 35,000 troops along the border as the possibility of an early resolution to the deadly tensions between the two neighbours faded.

Meanwhile, a joint survey launched by the nationalist tabloid Global Times and China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations found more than 70% of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed believe that India is being too hostile against China and nearly 90% support the government in retaliating strongly against Indian provocations.

Bloomberg

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