NEW DELHI: Indian and Chinese troops have fought a new brawl on their contested Himalayan border, leaving injuries on both sides, military officials said on Monday.
The fighting on Jan. 20 came six months after a pitched battle which left at least 20 Indian troops dead as well as an unknown number of Chinese casualties.
The world’s two most populous nations have since become embroiled in a diplomatic showdown over their geographical and political differences.
The Indian military played down the latest skirmish as a “minor face-off” at Naku La pass, which connects Sikkim state with Tibet on the Chinese side.
A short statement said the tensions were “resolved by local commanders as per established protocols”.
Four Indian troops were injured when a Chinese patrol was forced back, government sources said.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Chinese troops “dedicated themselves to safeguarding the peace and tranquillity” of the border region.
In May last year, soldiers from China and India – armed with sticks and other weapons – engaged in a brutal fighting near the Galwan River in Ladakh.
The clash resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, including an officer.
There had been a series of violent border skirmishes between the two countries after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a defensive Forward Policy from 1960 to hinder Chinese military patrols and logistics, in which it placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959.
Chinese military action grew increasingly aggressive after India rejected proposed Chinese diplomatic settlements throughout 1960–1962, with China re-commencing previously-banned “forward patrols” in Ladakh from 30 April 1962. China finally abandoned all attempts of peaceful resolution on 20 October 1962, invading disputed territory along the 3,225 kilometre- (2,000-mile-) long Himalayan border in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line.
Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both theatres, capturing Rezang La in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when China declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and simultaneously announced its withdrawal to its claimed “Line of Actual Control”.
Much of the fighting took place in harsh mountain conditions, entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,000 metres (14,000 feet). The Sino-Indian War was also notable for the lack of deployment of naval and aerial assets by either China or India.
As the Sino-Soviet split heated up, Moscow made a major effort to support India, especially with the sale of advanced MiG fighter-aircraft. The United States and Britain refused to sell advanced weaponry to India, causing it to turn to the Soviet Union.
Top: Indian troops near the border with China. Photo: Getty Images published by BBC