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NEW DELHI : Troops of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Indian Army clashed in Ladakh and Sikkim along their common border in recent days in separate incidents, spiking tensions between the Asian neighbours.

The Indian Army on Sunday confirmed that its soldiers were engaged in a tense face-off with Chinese troops along the border in northern Sikkim and attributed it to the undemarcated boundary issue between the two countries.

The face-off, which included “aggressive behaviour and minor injuries on both sides" said the Indian army, took place after a long time. The Indian Army’s statement comes after Hindustan Times reported Saturday’s face-off involving scores of Indian and Chinese soldiers. The confrontation between the troops took place near the Naku La sector at over 5,000 metres, the Hindustan Times report said.

Meanwhile Ladakh saw the face-off overnight Wednesday with troops getting into “a physical fight," a person familiar with the development said adding that the scuffle took place on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The last major standoff between India and China sides took place at the Doklam plateau in 2017 when the two armies faced off against each other for 73 days.

The confrontations between the two countries come as India, like most of the world, has been focused on arresting the spread of the novel coronavirus disease in the country, which first surfaced in China in December.

Beijing has been engaged in aggressive diplomacy with western countries, which have sought clarity on the origins of the covid-19 pandemic that has crippled the world economy, and led to almost four million people across the globe falling ill. Undeterred by the impact of the pandemic, China has also reportedly been making ‘aggressive’ moves in the South China Sea in recent weeks, establishing new administrative districts for the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos and naming 80 islands and other geographical features in the sea, claiming sovereignty over underwater features in the contested region. China’s announcements have drawn sharp responses from many countries, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, but Beijing was unmoved.

According to the Indian Army statement on Sunday, “Temporary and short duration face-offs occur as boundaries are not resolved". The reference was to the undemarcated India-China border seen as a legacy of the 1962 war between the two countries, which ended badly for India. The India-China border dispute covers 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control. 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. Both sides routinely accuse each other of incursions into the other’s territory due to the border not being clearly marked.

The Indian Army said that the troops “disengaged after dialogue and interaction at the local level".

“Troops resolve such issues mutually as per established protocols. Such an incident occurred after a long time," the Indian Army said.

Separately, Indian army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane said that "as far as our deployment along the border with China is concerned, the focus is on mutual understanding and respect for the sanctity of LAC and ensuring that no untoward incident takes place due to our differing perceptions of the LAC."

"Our focus has been to ensure all misunderstandings are mitigated amicably through discussions and existing mechanisms," Naravane told PTI. Both India and China have said that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at the New Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University pointed out that in two Chinese Communist Party conferences in 2012 and 2017, President Xi Jinping had spoken of the need to accomplish objectives that would enhance China’s image. “If you are a PLA general, you would take the message as meaning – ‘do something to consolidate China’s sovereignty claims,’ " he said. “This is the new normal in India-China ties. The only answer is to stand up and be firm," Kondapalli added.

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