India accuses China of trying to 'change status quo' at disputed Himalayan border

Troops brawled following incursion at India's north-eastern Arunachal Pradesh state

The road to the Line of Actual Control, at the India-China Border in Tawang, in the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. AP
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India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday accused China of attempting to “change the status quo” at the countries' disputed border, after People's Liberation Army troops entered Indian territory.

Soldiers clashed at Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh state in north-east India on December 9, when Chinese troops “contacted” the Line of Actual Control demarcation line, the Indian Army said.

This was the most serious incident along the largely unmarked border since a deadly brawl in 2020 — in which at least 24 soldiers from both sides were killed.

Speaking at India's Parliament in New Delhi on Tuesday, Mr Singh said that “PLA troops encroached upon and attempted to change [the] status quo”.

“This attempt was tackled by our troops in a determined manner,” said the minister.

“Indian Army bravely stopped PLA from encroaching upon our territory and forced them to retreat to their post.

“Both sides received injuries. I want to inform that no soldier has been killed or suffered any serious injury.”

Mr Singh's statement came hours after opposition parties accused the government of keeping reports of the latest clashes hidden from Parliament.

Earlier, the Indian Army said that at least six of its soldiers were injured in the brawl.

“This face-off led to minor injuries to few personnel from both sides,” the Indian Army said.

It said both sides immediately disengaged from the area and local commanders met to discuss the dispute.

“As a follow-up of the incident, our own commander in the area held a flag meeting with his counterpart to discuss the issue in accordance with structured mechanisms to restore peace and tranquillity,” the Indian Army said.

Beijing has neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

The LAC is a 4,000km often unmarked border between the countries that traverses along the Himalayas from Ladakh in the north to eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh, located on the eastern tip of the border, is historically claimed by China as part of Tibet region.

In December 2021, Beijing renamed 15 places in the state.

The incident marks an escalation between the two nations since June 2020, when at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the hand-to-hand brawl over disputed land in Ladakh. Beijing said four of its soldiers were killed in the border clashes.

That incident led to the mobilisation of tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides.

India maintained that Chinese troops had entered Indian territory and India had repeatedly emphasised disengagement for normality of bilateral relationship.

Diplomatic relations between the nuclear-armed nations have since remained frosty.

The sides held more than 16 rounds of “in-depth” exchange of views to resolve the border standoff and reduce troop deployments, dismantle infrastructure and restore landforms in the area to pre-standoff positions.

They completed disengagement from Ladakh in September.

Despite the disengagement from the confrontational points, contentious issues related to the boundary still remain, as Chinese were still controlling parts that India claims as its own.

Beijing denies the allegations and claims the territory to be its own.

Following the latest incident, opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over the issue.

Jairam Ramesh of Congress, India’s main opposition party, asked the government to “wake up” to China's “audacity” and accused ministers of suppressing the incident.

“China's actions on the border are completely unacceptable,” Mr Ramesh said in a tweet.

“For the last two years, we have been repeatedly trying to wake up the government, but the Modi government is trying to suppress the matter only to save its political image.

“The audacity of China is growing because of this.”

Member of Parliament Asaddudin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, asked why Parliament had not been informed about the clash.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 8:18 AM