India and China Deploy Thousands of Troops Along Northern Border After ‘Violent Face-Off’

India and China have rejected US President Donald Trump's offer to mediate
May 29, 2020 Updated: May 29, 2020

Indian media has reported that 5,000 troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have amassed in a remote region along the India-China border. India diverted more of its own troops to match China.

The Times of India published two reports this week, one on May 25 and another on May 29, reporting that 5,000 Chinese troops are camped directly on the India-China border, also known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The increase in tensions began after a violent battle between the PLA and the Indian Army along the border at Pangong Tso Lake on May 5.

The Times of India reported that the battle lasted until May 6, and over a hundred Chinese and Indian soldiers were wounded.

“Indian and the Chinese army personnel clashed with iron rods, sticks, and even resorted to stone-pelting in the Pangong Tso lake area in which soldiers on both sides sustained injuries,” The Times of India wrote.

A second conflict occurred on May 9 at another section of the border near Sikkim. The Hindustan Times reported on May 27 that 150 soldiers were engaged in that battle, and four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers were injured.

The India-China border has been a contested region for the two countries since the 1962 Indo-Chinese War.

Typically, India and China resolve any clashes by what is called “banner drills.” This is where the defender stands their ground and displays a series of signs in the other side’s language, stating that they are trespassing and asking them to leave.

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An Indian Military banner post is seen on the road to Pangong Lake on Oct. 5, 2012 (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

However, the Indian Express published an editorial on May 25 suggesting these protocols have been breaking down because of more “vigorous patrolling” along the border by the two countries and “the modernisation of military capabilities and transport infrastructure on both sides of the disputed border.”

“Reports in this newspaper in the last few days on the geographic scope and depth of the incursions and the intensity of troop concentration suggest there is a danger of the current face-off in eastern Ladakh becoming a bigger military confrontation,” writes the Indian Express.

Walter Ladwig, a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at King’s College London agrees this confrontation has the makings of something different.

In a report published on May 21 for the UK-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Ladwig said that although there are regular skirmishes every summer between India and China, this time both countries are reinforcing their territorial positions along the border. This is a step not seen since 2017 when the two countries had a military stand-off for 73 days on the Doklam plateau.

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A PLA Soldier and Indian Army Officer mend fences in the disputed region on 2013. (Deshakalyan Chowdhary/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Sino–Indian relationship is complicated,” said Ladwig.

Although China and India have a growing economic relationship, Ladwig noted that there was a “long-standing friction” over China’s support of Pakistan, its blocking of India from the United Nations Security Council, and China’s recent “Belt and Road” activity in the Indian Ocean.

China, for its part, is concerned by India’s consistent refusal to join the Belt and Road Initiative, its trade deficit of $56 billion with China, and India’s growing ties to the United States.

Writing on Twitter on May 27, U.S. President Donald Trump offered to mediate.

The United States is concerned with China’s aggressive behaviour in the South Asia region.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, said on May 21: “I think for anyone who was under any illusions that Chinese aggression was only rhetorical, I think they need to speak to India where India on a weekly, monthly, but certainly a very regular basis has to experience the pinpricks of the Chinese military. “