The Indian Army today denied reports that India soldiers were detained by Chinese troops. A statement from the army read, “There has been no detention of Indian soldiers at the borders. We categorically deny this. It only hurts national interests when media outlets publish unsubstantiated news”.
Sources told NDTV that a patrol party was detained by Chinese forces in Ladakh near the Pangong lake earlier this week, following a scuffle between the two sides. Along with armymen, personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were also part of the patrol team.
The situation – coming amid tensions along the Line of Actual Control — was defused after a meeting of commanders from both sides. Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office was briefed about the matter.
Asked if it can confirm that no ITBP jawans who were a part of this joint patrol were detained and no weapons of any ITBP jawans were snatched, the army refused to respond.
“Official statement has been issued. We are not taking any questions right now,” the army said.
On May 9, at least 15 to 20 members of the Indian patrol team were involved in hand to hand fighting at the high altitude picket. In a statement later, the army said, “Aggressive behaviour by the two sides resulted in minor injuries to troops. The two sides disengaged after dialogue and interaction at local level”.
“Temporary and short duration face-offs between border guarding troops do occur as boundaries are not resolved. Incident of face off as referred to in the article did take place. Troops resolve such issues mutually as per established protocols,” the statement read.
Senior home ministry officials said the situation was “volatile”.
“The situation became very volatile last Wednesday when a scuffle between Indian jawans and the Chinese resulted in detention of some of our jawans but later they were released,” a senior bureaucrat told NDTV.
According to him, in the scuffle, weapons of ITBP jawans were also snatched. “But eventually weapons were handed back and our jawans also came back,” he said.
The Chinese transgression was well inside the Indian territory and the home ministry was informed that they were patrolling the Pangong lake on motor boats. The army earlier said Chinese helicopters were seen operating in the disputed region in Ladakh. In an interview to NDTV, the Chief Of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said, “(Chinese) helicopter activity has seen a spurt” in Ladakh.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is being briefed on the situation every day, sources said. Army Chief General MM Naravane visited Leh, headquarters of the 14 Corps in Ladakh on Friday to assess the situation.
It was decided to strengthen security in the region and troops were stationed in the Galwan region – a flashpoint during the 1962 war. Additional troops have also been sent to the northern bank of Pangong Tso and Demchok.
The face-off between China and India started after China reportedly expressed its displeasure about the construction of a road and bridge in the Galwan area by India. “The road was constructed to help local population,” a senior officer told NDTV.