Troops of the Indian army and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are said to be in a tense face-off after Chinese forces allegedly made incursions into the contested parts of the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh to halt the construction of a dam. Tensions further rose when the Indian Air Force decided to deploy its massive C-17 Globemaster aircraft just 30kms from the border.
About 55 Chinese soldiers reportedly entered Arunachal Pradesh after crossing the de facto Line of Actual Control (LAC) and stopped the construction of a civilian water project in the area known as Demchok, located 250kms east of Leh, the capital of the mountainous Leh region.
This led to a brief face-off after the Indian side dispatched 70 forces from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), multiple Indian news outlets reported. "The Chinese army came on Wednesday [2 November] afternoon and stayed till night. They went back and returned this morning. It's an eyeball-to-eyeball situation there. Both the sides have held their ground," an Indian army source told The Hindu.
The irrigation project, being built under the locally popular Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, has been opposed by the Chinese government. China argues that the project needs its approval but India says the construction is only meant for civilian purposes and hence does not need China's clearance.
In an attempt to play down the matter, the northern unit of the Indian army said it was not an incursion but added the issue was being resolved. "No Chinese incursion across LAC. Issues relating construction projects on both sides of LAC being resolved in BPM [Border Personnel Meetings]," said a tweet from the Northern Command.
The Chinese troops ingressed deep into the same Indian region in 2014 protesting against the project, which is meant to link a village and a hot spring.
India's foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told a routine press conference: "I am not specifically aware of any such incident but even if something like this has happened, there are, as you know, established mechanisms to handle such situations as a result of which in the recent past at least our border with China has been free of any major incident. I would urge let's not sensationalise things out of context."
The standoff occurs within days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrating Diwali along with Indian troops at a border area close to China.
Meanwhile, India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is set to meet top Chinese officials shortly and the border incident is expected to come up at the discussions.