Beijing and Delhi trade accusations over border shootings

No casualties have been reported, but this is first time since 1975 that live ammunition has been used along the disputed border. The two sides have been concentrating troops in Ladakh and Tibet since May. Both oppose road construction on the other’s side of the border. India has accused China of abducting five young Indians from Arunachal Pradesh. Delhi could play the "Tibet card" in talks. For an Indian expert, the ongoing actions are just a symbolic show of force.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China and India have traded accusations that their troops fired at each other on the Himalayan border. Since May, both sides have been concentrating troops along the border.

No casualties have been reported, but this is the first time that live ammunition has been used by either country since 1975.

The alleged incident occurred yesterday at the Pangong Tso, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides Indian-controlled Ladakh territory from Chinese-occupied Tibet.

According to the Chinese army, Indian troops crossed the border. Once Chinese troops responded, Indian forces fired at them. The Indian Ministry of Defence gave a different version, saying that Indian troops approached the border post and then opened fire.

In 1996 the two governments had agreed not to use firearms within 2 km of the LAC. This however did not stop fist fights between soldiers.

On 15 June Indian and Chinese troops faced off in the Galwan valley, between Ladakh and Chinese Aksai Chin. Some 20 Indian soldiers were killed along with an unknown number of Chinese soldiers.

According to press reports, China sent troops in response to Indian road construction along the border.

The two countries share a 3,488 km of border in the rugged Himalayan region, which was the scene of a brief but bloody war in 1962.

India claims large parts of Aksai Chin (which the Chinese obtained from Pakistan). China claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Over the past 45 years, troops from both sides have faced off several times, with no casualties.

Making things worse, five young Indian men disappeared recently in Arunachal Pradesh. Their families claim they were kidnapped by Chinese soldiers. The Indian government has not yet made an official statement on the matter.

Ram Madhav, general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, today attended the funeral of an ethnic Tibetan member of India’s elite Special Frontier Force who was fatally wounded on 29 August by a mine along the LAC.

For analysts, Madhav's presence is a sign that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party is ready to play the Tibet card in the border dispute.

Occupied by China in 1950, Tibet has become heavily militarised in order to wipe out the identity of the indigenous Buddhist culture and people.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to meet in Moscow in the coming days to try to de-escalate the crisis.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Swaran Singh, professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said that “As long as top leaders are engaged, these [clashes] will only be tactical and symbolic muscle flexing."

For Singh, “the two giants are intensely and intrinsically too intertwined" for tensions to escalate into open warfare.