SRINAGAR: Several dozen Chinese soldiers have set up a remote camp some 10 kilometres inside territory claimed by India in the high altitude Himalayan desert of Ladakh, police sources said, in a possible return to border tension between the Asian giants.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the two countries were in touch with each other to resolve the row. The ill-defined border has fuelled 50 years of mistrust despite blossoming economic ties.
The Indian army set up its own temporary camp just 500 metres from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers after the incident on April 15, a senior police official stationed close to the border said.
“The PLA pitched tents inside Indian territory and established temporary posts there,” the official said, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. He said two helicopters gave support to the Chinese as they set up the camp on the Indian side of the disputed border.
“On April 17, 5th Battalion of Ladakh Scouts was sent to the sector to take on the PLA challenge and they are also camping there now,” the official said.
Another police officer in Srinagar confirmed his colleague’s version of the incident.
Responding to the reports of a Chinese incursion in Ladakh, the Indian foreign ministry acknowledged both sides were in touch through diplomatic channels established to diffuse border flare-ups.
“We are confident that the current incident will also be peacefully resolved on this basis,” spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. He didn’t give details.
India lost a short but bloody war with China in 1962, fought in Ladakh and the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.
India controls Arunachal Pradesh, while China administers a large area adjacent to Ladakh called Aksai Chin.
Neither side is comfortable with the arrangement.
Small incursions are common across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border that runs some 4,000 kilometres across the Himalayas, but it is rare for either country to set up camp so deep within disputed territory.
The two countries have increased their military presence on each side of the border in recent years as their fast-growing economies permit more spending on defence of remote regions.
They hold frequent meetings to diffuse tensions, but high-level talks to resolve the dispute have not produced results.