SRINAGAR, India – Indian and Chinese soldiers yelled and hurled stones at one another high in the Himalayas in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Indian officials said Wednesday, potentially escalating tensions between two nations already engaged in a lengthy border standoff elsewhere.
The Chinese soldiers hurled stones while attempting to enter Ladakh region near Pangong Lake on Tuesday but were confronted by Indian soldiers, said a top police officer. The officer said Indian soldiers retaliated but neither side used guns.
China did not comment directly on the reported incident, but called on India to comply with earlier agreements and help maintain peace and stability along the border.
An Indian intelligence officer said the confrontation occurred after Indian soldiers intercepted a Chinese patrol that veered into Indian-held territory after apparently it lost its way due to bad weather.
The officer said that soon the soldiers began shouting at each other and later threw stones. He said some soldiers from both sides received minor injuries.
After nearly 30 minutes of facing off, the two sides retreated to their positions, he said.
An Indian military officer said the skirmish was brief but violent and for the first time stones were used.
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All the officers spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Soldiers from the two countries are already locked in a bitter but non-violent standoff in Doklam, an area disputed between China and India’s ally Bhutan, where New Delhi sent its soldiers in June to stop China from constructing a strategic road.
China demands that Indian troops withdraw unilaterally from the Doklam standoff before any talks can be held, while New Delhi says each side should stand down. China and India fought a border war in 1962 and much of their frontier remains unsettled despite several rounds of official-level talks.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Chinese troops sought to avoid confrontations and said India should “make tangible efforts to maintain the peace and stability of the border areas between the two countries.”
“I have no knowledge of the details you mentioned, but what I can tell you is that Chinese border troops have always been committed to maintaining the peace and tranquility of the China-India border areas,” Hua told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference.
The website of New Delhi-based English weekly India Today quoted a report by the Indian military intelligence, which said the use of stones was unprecedented and appeared intended to heighten tension without using lethal weapons. The report said the worst that has happened earlier was an isolated slap or pushing between soldiers from the two sides.
India’s worries over Chinese repeated border crossings into Kashmir’s Ladakh region have seen a massive Indian army buildup in the cold desert in recent years.
The disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between nuclear-armed India, Pakistan and China. The part held by China is contiguous to Tibet.