India and China may be in a military standoff position, but in a recent incident, troops from India and China clashed in Sikkim. This clash was confirmed by the Indian Army who said that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and Indian Army Faced off at Naka Lu, a pass located at a height of more than 5,000 meters in Sikkim.
Sikkim is a state that holds a difficult geographical position as it is sandwiched between two Indian neighbours: Nepal and Bhutan. Naka Lu is a pass that is 2,500 km east of the Ladakh region.
What Happened during the latest clash between India and China?
According to media reports, a Chinese patrol entered Indian territory and was forced back by the Indian army. This intrusion of the Chinese patrolman goes against the conclusions that came after the military and diplomatic talks that have taken place between both countries over the last few months.
The Indian statement issued straight after the Indian and Chinese commanders had a talk said that both sides agreed to ensure restraint to “avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation. Reports suggest that during the face-off there were no gunshots used in the clash and only sticks and stones were used.
The Indian army later gave a statement and said that “there was a minor face-off at Naku La area of North Sikkim on 20 January 2021 and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols”.
Although China’s foreign ministry spokesperson has not divulged any details yet, he has maintained that the Chinese troops are “committed to upholding peace”. The spokesperson also asked India to “refrain from actions that might escalate or complicate the situation.”
Since the faceoff, the PLA and Indian army have held multiple de-escalation talks but still, the two sides have not come to an agreement.
What’s Sikkim’s defensive and strategic significance for India and China?
Sikkim remains a region that has been a key escalation point between India and China. In the 1962 Indo-China war, the region saw multiple clashes. In 1967, there was a fight between the Indian and Chinese soldiers on the border in which hundreds of soldiers died on both sides.
According to Indian military experts, Sikkim is an advantageous region for India because it is the only place through which India can make an offensive response if we face a Chinese incursion. Additionally, It is the only stretch of the Himalaya where only the Indian Army has a tactical advantage due to the land’s terrain. Since the Indian soldiers have the higher ground, the Chinese soldiers are forced to be sandwiched between India and Bhutan.
It should be noted that a similar face-off occurred in Naka Lu last year in May. Indian and Chinese troops clashed at the northern end of Pangong Tso. On May 9, troops were involved in a brawl which resulted in injury on both sides.