Indian, Chinese commanders hold talks over mounting tensions
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian and Chinese military commanders held talks for a second day Tuesday following a new escalation in tensions along their contested border in the Ladakh region.
Both of the Asian giants have accused the other of fresh provocations, including allegations of soldiers crossing into each other’s territory, months after their deadliest standoff in decades.
Details of the talks which resumed Tuesday morning weren’t immediately disclosed. The two countries have amassed soldiers and equipment in the region in recent months.
On Monday, India said its soldiers had thwarted “provocative” movements by China’s military on Saturday night. In turn, China’s defense ministry accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control and creating provocations along the disputed border on Monday.
Both India and China have provided little information, but media in the two countries have given extensive coverage to the escalating tensions.
Indian authorities on Monday cut cellphone service in the Changtang area, which includes most of the cold-desert border areas between India and China. No explanation was given for the move, but officials have often blocked communication links in the region citing security issues.
Authorities also were controlling civilian traffic into Ladakh, allowing only emergency services and supplies from Kashmir.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused India of fueling new tensions. She said such moves damaged border peace and undermined the countries’ recent efforts to ease the situation.
“The Indian side may have a different statement from the Chinese side, but there can only be one fact or truth,” Hua said at a regular daily briefing. “Over the past 70 years ... China has never initiated any war or conflict, and we have never invaded an inch of land of other countries.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said Chinese soldiers had entered the Indian side three times in the last three days but Indian soldiers did not allow them to “unilaterally alter the status quo.”
“The actions and behavior of the Chinese side since earlier this year along the LAC has been in clear violation of the bilateral agreements and protocols,” it said in a statement, referring to the Line of Actual Control, the disputed and undemarcated 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) border between India and China that stretches from the Ladakh region in the north to the Indian state of Sikkim.
The standoff is over disputed portions of a pristine landscape high in the Karakoram mountains that boasts the world’s highest landing strip, a glacier that feeds one of the largest irrigation systems in the world, and is a critical link in China’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory and separated it from disputed Kashmir in August 2019, ending its semi-autonomous status and straining the already prickly relationship between New Delhi and Beijing. China was among the countries to strongly condemn the move, raising it at international forums including the U.N. Security Council.
According to some Indian and Chinese strategic experts, India’s move exacerbated existing tensions with China, leading to the deadly June border clash.
The two nations fought a border war in 1962 that also spilled into Ladakh and ended in an uneasy truce. Since then, troops from opposing sides have guarded the undefined mountain border area, occasionally brawling. They have agreed not to attack each other with firearms.
Rival soldiers brawled bitterly in May, and in June fought with clubs, stones and their fists, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead. China did not report any casualties, although unconfirmed reports based on photos of new burial grounds say Chinese losses may have topped three dozen.
Accusing each other of instigating the violence, both sides have pledged to safeguard their territory but also try to end the standoff, which has dramatically changed the India-China relationship.
Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks on ending the crisis have been unsuccessful.
Associated Press journalist Sam McNeil in Beijing contributed to this story.