The People’s Liberation Army staged live-fire drills at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet – close to the Ladakh region which was the scene of fatal hand-to-hand clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers which resulted in the deaths of at least 23 Indian soldiers as well as an unknown number of Chinese. India has also taken part in war games in the region in recent weeks.
Last week its military suggested for the first time that Chinese troops had “transgressed” the Line of Actual Control which separates the two nations in May, in a report on the website of the Indian Ministry of Defense’s website.
The document, which mentioned “unilateral Chinese aggression” was rapidly removed.
Media outlets in India have suggested Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has admitted he was preparing his troops for a drawn-out stand-off with China.
However, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday sought to strike an upbeat tone, telling reporters: “For the China-India relationship, the two sides should jointly safeguard peace and security in the border areas and maintain steady and sound development of bilateral ties.
“We will continue to deepen strategic mutual trust and expand shared interests with our neighbours and other developing countries.”
Also speaking on Monday, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava defended India’s decision to take part in military exercises in the South China Sea.
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He added: “China appears to be altering the facts on the ground in terms of what the LAC will look like in Ladakh in future.
“The simultaneous withdrawals of Chinese and Indian forces of a distance of 1-2km each at their points of contention looks, on its surface, to be what an equitable and fair de-escalation would look like.
“However, this is not the case when China has in fact intruded up to eight kilometres in some areas into Indian territory.
“This means that a mutual withdrawal of two kilometres means that China will withdraw to only occupying six kilometres of Indian territory within that area, whereas India has to withdraw further back within its own territory.”
China’s approach was sometimes referred to in India as “two steps forward, one step back”, Mr O’Donnell explained.
Mr Modi has wavered between insisting there had been no transgression – a claim apparently contradicted in the pulled report – and making vague threats, Mr O’Donnell said.
He added: “The first line of messaging – that there is no intrusion – will be taken by Beijing and spotlighted by its diplomats as proof that India accepts the Chinese claim.
“Even if the Chinese forces do in fact withdraw all the way back across Ladakh to their positions prior to the incursions in May – which is unlikely – then it is likely they will retain much more sizeable permanent forces in the area to pose a long-term threat to the Indian position here.
“However, the most likely outcome at this stage is that the Indian government will end up accepting some form of permanent advanced Chinese position within its own territory, while seeking to present this as a win to the Indian public as there were, firstly, mutual withdrawals and, secondly, by generating a fog of confusion for the Indian public about where the LAC actually is.”