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India accuses China of trying to ‘change status quo’ amid new border flare-up

This picture, taken on September 28, 2021, shows Indian soldiers on guard near the under-construction Zojila tunnel in Ladakh, in the Himalayas. (By AFP)

India has accused China of trying to "unilaterally change the status quo" on their disputed Himalayan border following a fresh stand-off last week.

India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh confirmed during a briefing in parliament on Tuesday that Indian and Chinese troops had engaged in a confrontation in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on December 9.

"On December 9, 2022, PLA troops attempted to unilaterally change the status quo by encroaching on the Line of Actual Control, in the Yangtse area of Tawang sector," Singh said, referring to China's People's Liberation Army and the de facto border.

Singh told lawmakers the scuffle had led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides and that there had been no fatalities among Indian soldiers. He said the Chinese had been prevented from entering Indian territory.

"A scuffle ensued in this face-off. The Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from encroaching on our territory, and forced them to withdraw to their posts. Some soldiers from both sides were injured in the skirmish," he said.

In Beijing, PLA Western Theater Command spokesman Long Shaohua said Indian troops had "illegally crossed the Line (of Actual Control)" and "obstructed" Chinese border patrol troops.

"Our response measures were professional, standard, and forceful, and stabilized the situation on the ground. At present, China and India have disengaged," said Long. "We ask the Indian side to strictly control and restrain front-line troops, and work with China to maintain peace and tranquility on the border."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said earlier Tuesday that the situation was "stable overall." He added that the two sides "maintained unobstructed dialogue on the border issue through diplomatic and military channels."

Singh also confirmed that local commanders from both sides had held a flag meeting on December 11 and the incident had been discussed.

The latest flare-up followed joint military exercises last month between India and the United States in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, which borders China.

The incident is also believed to have been the most serious on the disputed frontier since 2020, when 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers died brawling in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh. Both countries back then stationed tens of thousands of troops backed by artillery, tanks, and fighter jets along the Line of Actual Control.

After multiple meetings between military commanders, some Indian and Chinese soldiers were pulled back from Ladakh.

The Line of Actual Control is the de facto border separating Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India's eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. India and China fought a war over the border in 1962.

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