New Delhi, May 11: China on Monday reacted guardedly to an incident involving its troops and Indian soldiers engaging in hand-to-hand fighting at a high altitude picket in north Sikkim on Saturday. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said its troops remained “committed to upholding peace and tranquillity” at border areas, a wire agency reported.
“Chinese border troops have always been upholding peace and tranquillity along our border areas. China and India stay in close communication and coordination concerning our border affairs within existing channels,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing, adding both nations should properly handle and manage their differences.
There were reports that there may also have been stone pelting between the forces. India and China have differing views on the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the region. The entire incident has been captured on video by the Indian Army.
On whether the hand-to-hand fighting reflects an aggressive approach by China amid the coronavirus lockdown, Zhao said, “Relevant assumption is groundless”.
“This year marks the 70th year of establishment of the diplomatic relations between India and China, and the two countries have joined hands to fight against COVID-19,” he said. “Under such circumstances both sides should work together with each other and properly manage and handle the differences and earnestly uphold peace and stability in the border region so as to create enabling conditions for our bilateral relations as well as joint fight against COVID-19,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The Indian Army had in a statement said “aggressive behaviour” by the two sides resulted in minor injuries to troops. “The two sides disengaged after dialogue and interaction at local level,” the Army said on Sunday.
The last time something similar happened was in August 2017, when Indian and Chinese soldiers came to blows on the Eastern Bank of the Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
The 73-day stand-off with China also took place that year over Doklam plateau, an area claimed by China and India’s ally Bhutan.
In 2018, at an informal summit at Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping threw up new guidelines for the military of both nations as part of moving beyond Doklam and “maintaining peace and tranquillity” on border areas.