The Indian Air Force scrambled fighter jets to the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) border in Ladakh last week, a news report said Tuesday, to ward off possible intrusion after Chinese helicopters were seen flying close to the LAC.
The incident occurred at around the same time when Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a scuffle that caused injuries to men on both sides along the LAC in north Sikkim over the weekend, ANI news agency said in its report.
Quoting unnamed government sources, ANI said that Chinese military helicopters were flying close to the LAC. On spotting their movement, IAF fighter jets were rushed in to ward off any possible intrusion, the report said. The Chinese helicopters however, did not cross the LAC into India.
“The Chinese military helicopters were flying very close to the Line of Actual Control. After their movement was picked up, the Indian Air Force fighter jets flew patrols in the area," the ANI report said.
In its response, the Indian army said “incidents of face-off and aggressive behaviour occur along the LAC. Patrols disengage after local level interaction and dialogue. Temporary and short duration face-offs occur as boundary is not resolved. Troops resolve such incidents mutually as per established protocols." The reference was to the undemarcated India-China border seen as a legacy of the 1962 war between the two countries. The China-India border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.Many rounds of talks have been held between the two sides, but these are yet to yield any result.
“There is no continuing faceoff at the Pangong Tso lake (in Ladakh). There is no build up of armed troops in the area," the statement said.
The official response did not refer to any scrambling of military air craft by the IAF. A PTI report however said a fleet of Su-30 fighters of the Indian Air Force too carried out sorties in the area.
There have been several occasions in the past when Chinese military helicopters have entered Indian airspace in Ladakh mainly due to the undemarcated border, a legacy of the 1962 India-China war. Indian and Chinese troops also routinely accuse each other of incursions into their territory.
The development comes soon after the Indian security establishment noticed that Pakistani Air Force increased its patrols of F-16S and JF-17s along its eastern Border with India, especially night sorties, the ANI report said. This came after the deaths of five Indian security personnel during a counter terrorism operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district, earlier this month. The dead included an army colonel, the head of the 21st battalion of the Rastriya Rifles. The possible fear of retaliation by Indian forces is being seen as the reason for the ramp up of Pakistani air patrols, the report said.
The IAF has two main bases in Ladakh including Leh and the Thoise airbase, where fighter jets are not deployed permanently but detachments from combat aircraft squadrons are operational throughout the year, the report said.
In one of the most tense confrontations between India and China in recent times, troops of both sides were locked in a 73-day face-off in Doklam from June 2017, after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. The impasse ended on August 28, 2017.