SRINAGAR: Indian and Chinese soldiers brawled last week along the countries’ disputed border, Indian officials said on Monday, as a months-long standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals continued.

The clash in the Naku La area of Sikkim came four days before the countries held the ninth round of talks on Sunday on ending tensions in another disputed border area in the remote Ladakh region.

The Indian army described the clash at Naku La as a minor faceoff and said it was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols.

Another round of talks on Ladakh held

An army statement did not provide any other details, but asked media to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating the incident.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he did not have information to provide on the incident, but urged India not to take any unilateral action that may further complicate or exacerbate the border tension.

Since a deadly clash last year, soldiers from the two sides have brawled occasionally and fired shots for the first time in decades, breaking a long-standing agreement not to use firearms during border confrontations.

Two Indian security officials said 18 Chinese soldiers tried to cross into Indian-claimed territory at Naku La late in the night on Jan 20 and were blocked by Indian soldiers, leading to clashes with sticks and stones. The officials said soldiers on both sides were carrying firearms but did not use them.

The two officials said 12 Indian and eight Chinese soldiers received minor injuries.

Both sides rushed more soldiers to the area in an “aggressive deployment” that swelled the number of personnel to hundreds, the officials said.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of Congress party, accused China of expanding its occupation into Indian territory and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence.

“Modi hasn’t said the word China for months,” Gandhi said in a tweet. “Maybe he can start by saying the word China.”

India and China have been locked in a tense military standoff since May high in the Himalayas, with troops settling in for the harsh winter.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021

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