Chinese and Indian soldiers ‘struggle on new border’

Sikkim is one of the many areas to witness the India-China disputes. File image

Indian media says that Chinese and Indian soldiers have clashed again in the disputed border area.

The incident took place in North Sikkim last Wednesday. The Army of India said that a “minor” incident had occurred which had been “resolved”.

Tensions are high on the world’s longest disputed border. Both sides claim large areas of territory.

Last June, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash in the Ladakh region.

What happened in the latest incident?

According to media reports, this happened in Naku La, North Sikkim. Sikkim is an Indian state located between Bhutan and Nepal, approximately 2,500 km (1,500 mi) from the Ladakh region.

Officials said a Chinese patrol team tried to enter Indian territory and was forced to return. Some reports stated that sticks and stones were used, but there were no gunshots.

An Indian Army statement that played down the incident said, “On 20 January 2021, there was a minor face-to-face encounter in the Naku La region of North Sikkim and local commanders resolved it according to established protocols”.

A source told the Times of India that the two sides brought in reinforcements following a “dispute” but no firepower and the situation was under control.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian did not provide details of the incident, but said China’s troops are “committed to maintaining peace” and urged India to “avoid action or complicate the situation along the border” .

The editor-in-chief of China’s state-affiliated Global Times tweeted, “There was no record of this confrontation in the Chinese side’s patrol logs”.


Flashpoint and dialog

Analysis by Vikas Pandey, BBC News, Delhi

The latest reports about the skirmishes suggest that tensions are still running high. The statement of the Indian Army shows that both countries are still willing to keep the path of dialogue open and do not want to derail this process.

They have held several military-level talks to ease tensions, but nothing concrete has been done yet.

And the military still faces its competition limits with each other at multiple flashpoints.

Some former Indian officials say that such an exchange cannot be avoided if such a situation occurs. But they agree that the negotiations need to continue as both nations do not want a war – not a limited one.

Why are there border disputes?

The 3,440-km (2,100-mile) range is ill-defined. Rivers, lakes and snowfall mean that line shifts can occur, bringing troops face to face at many points, sometimes leading to collisions.

A minor skirmish took place last May in Naku La, which is over 5,000 meters (16,000 ft) high. A month later a deadly conflict took place in the Galvan Valley in Ladakh. Apart from Indian deaths, China also reportedly suffered casualties, although it did not make any official comment.

The two sides held de-escalation talks ever since there was a hand-to-hand fight, in which there was no firing. The ninth round of them took place between military commanders in eastern Ladakh on Sunday, but there is no description of any agreement.

Nuclear-armed neighbors, along with China, one of India’s largest trading allies, have much to lose.

The face-to-face relations of the border have deteriorated. Both have taken forward the construction of infrastructure in some border areas.

The Indian government has also banned over 200 Chinese apps citing cyber security concerns.

The two countries have fought only one war, in 1962, when India suffered a heavy defeat.

An agreement was signed in 1996 prohibiting the use of guns and explosives from the Line of Actual Control as a disputed border. It has been held, although China accused Indian soldiers of firing warning shots in Ladakh in September last year.

What is the strategic importance of Sikkim?

The small eastern Himalayan region has been an important issue between India and China for decades. It saw conflict in the 1962 war. Five years later, several hundred soldiers were killed on both sides fighting on its border.

The former state was an Indian defender at the time, and became the 22nd state in the country only after a referendum in 1975.

Sikkim is an altitude plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglong in China.

India fears more Chinese road access to the plateau will threaten India’s strategically vulnerable “chicken neck”, a 20-km (12-mile)-wide Siliguri corridor that covers seven north-eastern states, including Assam, from the rest of the country. adds up.

The border in Sikkim is also important for another reason. Indian military experts say this is the only area through which India can react objectively to a Chinese incursion, and is the only part of the Himalayan border where Indian troops have a terrain and strategic advantage. They have high ground, and have Chinese locations between India and Bhutan.

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