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Indian and Chinese troops standoff at border

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)
May 19, 2020

India has bolstered its military presence in Galwan Valley of the Ladakh region on Monday in response to a growing Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) buildup in the border region between the two countries.

The Economic Times of India reported India’s troop response on Monday, indicating Indian military forces were preparing defensive positions along the Indian-Chinese border region. The Chinese state media outlet Global Times also reported the Chinese and Indian troop build-ups along the border.

Chinese forces have set up more than 80 tents, established temporary defensive positions, and positioned reinforcements nearby to respond quickly if an incident should occur.

The Global Times described China’s military actions as the “strongest military response to India’s illegal trespassing incident along the border.”

“Since early May, India has been crossing the boundary line in the Galwan Valley region and entering Chinese territory. The Indian side built defense fortifications and obstacles to disrupt Chinese border defense troops’ normal patrol activities, purposefully instigated conflicts and attempted to unilaterally change the current border control situation,” The Global Times wrote, citing a Chinese military source.

The Indian news source said the “illegal trespassing” activity described by the Chinese outlet was just a road construction effort to enable its troops to carry out patrols and which would also be available for use by the local population.

“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) bid to stop the road construction activities has led to a standoff, with sources saying that an extensive road network has already been established by China on the other side of the border,” the Economic Times of India reported.

The addition of new troops on the border is being described as an extension of tensions that first flared up two weeks ago on May 5. The South China Morning Post reported 11 soldiers – four Indian and seven Chinese – were injured during the incident, near Nathu La border crossing in Ladakh at the time. Following the initial incident, The Times of India reported Indian fighter jets had begun patrol flights over Ladakh after Chinese military helicopters flew close to the Indian border.

The Global Times also reported Chinese military observers do not believe the current standoff will play out in a similar way to the 2017 “Doklam Standoff,” when Chinese and Indian troops maintained a roughly two and a half month-long standoff over the disputed Doklam territory in Bhutan. At one point during the 2017 standoff, dozens of Chinese and Indian troops were seen brawling and throwing stones at each other. India eventually yielded control of the territory to China.

According to The South China Morning Post, Chinese and Indian officials have both claimed their side is maintaining open lines of communication during the current standoff.

There have been past flare-ups along the border between India and China, including the deployment of Chinese vehicle-mounted artillery pieces in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) near India, after a prior border dispute. Past border disputes have reportedly resolved quickly, though the clashes in Doklam have demonstrated the possibility of these clashes to turn violent.