Indian and Chinese troops in 'minor face-off' in Naku La in Sikkim last week; issue resolved: Army

·4-min read

New Delhi, Jan 25 (PTI) Amid their tense standoff in eastern Ladakh, Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a clash in the high-altitude Naku La region in North Sikkim on January 20, an incident described by the Indian Army on Monday as a 'minor face-off'.

In a statement, the Indian Army said the face-off was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols.

The incident at Naku La became public on Monday hours after senior commanders of both the armies concluded a nearly 16-hour-long meeting in an attempt to defuse tension in eastern Ladakh.

It is learnt that troops from both sides sustained minor injuries in the physical brawl in Naku La.

'It is clarified that there was a minor face-off at Naku La area of North Sikkim on January 20 and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols. Media is requested to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating reports which are factually incorrect,' the Army said in a brief statement.

People familiar with the developments along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in North Sikkim said the Chinese troops attempted to transgress into the Indian side of the frontier in Naku La but were stopped by the Indian military personnel.

They said both sides brought in additional troops to Naku La following the brawl and the situation was under control so far.

It is also learnt that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the top military brass were apprised about the incident.

Naku La, located at an altitude of 16,000 feet, was the same site where Indian and Chinese troops had engaged in a fierce clash in May last year days after a violent face-off between the two sides in Pangong lake area in eastern Ladakh. Nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in the face-off in Naku La on May 9. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.

The incident in the Pangong lake area has triggered the nearly nine-month-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh between the two sides.

When asked about the incident in Naku La, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: 'On the specific incident you mentioned, I don't have any information to offer.' Zhao told a media briefing in Beijing that the Chinese border troops are committed to upholding peace and tranquillity along the border with India.

'We urge the Indian side to work in the same direction with us and refrain from actions that might escalate or complicate the situation along the border. We hope both will take proper actions to manage the differences and take concrete actions to safeguard the peace and stability along the border,' the spokesperson said.

The Indian and Chinese armies held another round of Corps Commander-level talks on Sunday with an aim to move forward on disengagement of troops from all the friction points in eastern Ladakh. The meeting began at around 10:30 am on Sunday and concluded at 2:30 am on Monday.

In view of the tense border row with China in eastern Ladakh, the Army has significantly ramped up deployment of troops in all sensitive areas along the nearly 3,500-km-long LAC including in the Sikkim and Arunachal sectors.

The Indian Air Force(IAF) has also deployed additional fighter jets and attack helicopters in key bases looking after the airspace along the LAC in the Arunachal sector, sources said.

India has all along been maintaining that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.

Close to 100,000 troops of the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army(PLA) are deployed in eastern Ladakh as both sides have been holding on to their ground and showing readiness for a long-haul, amid continuing diplomatic and military talks to find an amicable solution.

Reflecting India's firm approach in handling the situation, Army chief Gen MM Naravane said nearly two weeks ago that the Indian troops will hold their ground as long as it takes to achieve the 'national goals and objectives' even as he hoped for an amicable resolution of the row through talks.

The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction near Sikkim sector in 2017. PTI MPB GSN GSN GSN