Close on the heels of the fisticuff between soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army Indian troops along the LAC in North Sikkim’s Naku La which injured seven Chinese and four Indian troops – that also involved an Indian Lieutenant bloodying the nose of a Chinese Major – reports have emerged of the IAF scrambling fighter jets after Chinese helicopters were detected on their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, in response to an earlier face-off between the two troops between May 5 and 6. Military sources however maintain the clash and aggressive behaviour to be routine and only point to the sudden scrambling of military aircraft as rare, which too were flying within the agreed buffer zones – 10 kms for jets and 1 km for helicopters within own side – to prevent escalations.
Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand was quoted in news reports clarifying that there was “no continuing face off” at Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake), adding that during such instances, patrols disengage after intervention and “dialogue” between local military authorities of both sides as per “established protocols”. The LAC cuts through the Pangong Tso, with the 45 km long western part under Indian control and the rest under Chinese.
Clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the 3,400 km long LAC are common owing to long-standing unresolved boundary disputes that leads to “differing perceptions” of the international border between the two nations. The mountains on the lake’s northern bank jut out into three major spurs called Finger 2, Finger 4 and Finger 8, with the situation on ground brewing for two months after Chinese troops had objected to Indian patrols up to Finger 8. At one instance, PLA troops even physically stopped Indian patrols up to Finger 2. The clash at Sikkim’s Naku La took place at an altitude of 19,000 feet, after Indian and Chinese patrols had reached there on Saturday afternoon. Naku La is known as a “sensitive area”.