Chinese troops have moved into a tense, disputed section of the Himalayan border shared by China and India, according to a high-ranking Delhi official.
Speaking to CNN-affiliate News18, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said Tuesday a “significant number” of Chinese troops had moved to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.
“It is true that people of China are on the border. They claim that it is their territory. Our claim is that it is our area. There has been a disagreement over it … India has done what it needs to do,” Singh said during the interview.
He added that top-level talks between the two countries would be held on June 6.
“We don’t want any country to bow before us, and we will not bow before any country,” Singh added.
India and China share one of the world’s longest land borders. In 1962, the two countries engaged in a bloody Himalayan border war, and tensions have continued to break out there sporadically in the decades since.
Last month, an aggressive cross-border skirmish between Chinese and Indian forces resulted in minor injuries to troops. The incident has been followed in recent weeks by unconfirmed reports of tensions in the mountainous area, though neither side had publicly acknowledged anything out of the ordinary.
On June 1, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press conference that the situation on the border was “stable and controllable.”
“The two sides can resolve related issues through the established border-related mechanisms and diplomatic channels,” he said.
Zhao’s comments came a day after the nationalistic Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times published an article previewing an array of new military weapons, which could deployed to “high altitude conflicts,” such as the Himalayan border.
“Chinese border defense troops have bolstered border control measures and made necessary moves in response to India’s recent, illegal construction of defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region in May,” the article said.
Line of Actual Control
In 1993, after years of territorial standoffs and negotiations, China and India finally signed an agreement which attempted to mark out a long stretch of border between the two countries.
That border is known as the line of actual control, but its precise location can be blurry, and there is still dispute between China and India as to where one country ends and the other begins.
Former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on her official Twitter account that Delhi and Beijing couldn’t even agree on the length of the border between the two countries.
“The India China border is 3,488 kilometers (2,167 miles) long … In the Chinese definition, the India-China border is around 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) long,” she said.
Chinese state media has covered the issue, too.
“There is no line of actual control along the China-India border that both sides recognize,” the Global Times said in an article on May 25.
The last time border tensions ran high was in 2017 when troops massed in and around the disputed Doklam plateau, a thin strip of land at the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan. Though not a part of Indian territory, the area is close to the “chicken’s neck,” a strategic corridor that serves as a vital artery between Delhi and its far northeastern states.
Bhutan accused China of constructing a road inside its territory, which Beijing denied. India then stepped in to support Bhutan’s claims, leading to a months-long standoff, which included live-fire drills by the People’s Liberation Army on the border.
US voices support for India
On May 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waded into the territorial saga, voicing his concerns over the border dispute on a podcast.
“The Chinese Communist Party – the nature of activities they are undertaking … Even today, increasing forces of China moved up to north of India on the line of actual control there on the Indian border,” Pompeo said. “These are the kind of actions that authoritarian regimes take and they have a real impact.”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said last month that the US would be willing to mediate or arbitrate border disputes between India and China.
“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!” he tweeted.
Relations between the US and China have rapidly deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic and as Beijing attempts to tighten its grip on the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response that it did not need “third party” intervention on its border with India. But US officials have continued to speak out about the situation.
On June 1, Eliot Engel, chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that he was “extremely concerned” by Chinese troop movements along the line of actual control.
“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbors rather than resolve conflicts according to international law,” he said in a statement.
“I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”