Indian troops spotted Chinese forces on Saturday night and assembled to deter another clash between the two nations. The incident took place on the shores of the Pangong Tso lake, where the two nuclear-armed countries have been stuck in a face-off since April.
Frank O’Donnell, Nonresident Fellow in the Stimson Center South Asia Program, told Express.co.uk that tensions between China and India have remained high since the Galwan Valley attack in June.
He said: “Their current bilateral relationship is probably the worst it has been in decades.”
The Galwan Valley attack in June saw 20 Indian soldiers died following a clash with Chinese troops in the area.
The hand-to-hand battle was the most serious military confrontation between the two neighbours in more than half a century.
After the clash, both nations had agreed to pull back their troops.
But the Indian Army has said the Chinese military violated the agreement on Saturday.
China has rejected the reports that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces had breached the border in the Himalayas over the weekend.
In a statement, an Indian army spokesman Colonel Aman Anand said: “On the night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.”
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Mr O’Donnell highlighted how the recent clashes are also causing tensions with India’s security alliances.
He said: “While negotiations formally continue in an effort to peacefully resolve the crisis, it is notable that India recently informed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China, Pakistan, and Russia as members, that it would not participate in an upcoming major joint military exercise in protest to China’s border incursions.”
Mr O’Donnell explained that India has under-appreciated military advantages over China.
He said: “Despite the apparent numerical parity of ground forces on both sides of the border, Indian forces are all permanently close to China’s border, shortening their mobilisation time and limiting the prospects of a successful Chinese cross-border advance.
“Even in a war with India, a significant proportion of Chinese ground forces will be unavailable, reserved either for Russian taskings or for countering insurrection in Xinjiang and Tibet.
“The majority of forces are located further from the Indian border, posing a striking contrast with the majority forward-deployed Indian forces with a single China defence mission.”
The confrontations between the two neighbours are also increasing the debates around India’s nuclear arms.
India has deployed its sole nuclear-armed submarine, the INS Arihant, in the Indian Ocean to reportedly send a message to China.
India’s military naval and air developments suggest that the country’s “strategic planners see a greater role for nuclear weapons in India’s general defence” according to Mr O’Donnell.