China Cries 'Fake News' After Reports 20 Troops Hurt in India Border Clash

Chinese state media has decried what it calls "fake news" reports detailing a major clash between Indian and Chinese troops at Naku La in the north Sikkim border area between the two countries.

Indian media reports on Monday suggested that as many as 20 Chinese troops had been injured in hand-to-hand fighting on January 20, which would be the most significant resurgence in tensions between the two since dozens of troops died in fighting along the border north of India's Ladakh region in June.

China's Global Times newspaper—a fiercely nationalistic publication run by the Chinese Communist Party—said on Monday the reports were "fake news," citing an unnamed source.

"There is no record of this incident in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) frontline patrol logs," the Global Times wrote. "There have been minor frictions between the frontline forces of the two countries, but if there had been friction involving casualties, it is impossible for them not to be recorded in the Chinese patrol logs."

The Indian military too, played down the incident. "It is clarified 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," an army statement read.

"Media is requested to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating reports which are factually incorrect," the statement added.

AFP cited unnamed government sources who said four Indian troops were injured when a Chinese patrol was forced back by Indian soldiers. They added that an unknown number of Chinese troops were also injured. Indian media claimed at least 20 PLA soldiers were wounded.

Both countries have reinforced troops along the mountainous 2,520-mile border since tensions spiked last summer. Each blamed the other for the conflict, but satellite images showed that Chinese troops had set up new positions beyond the Line of Actual Control—the demarcation line established after the 1962 border war.

Indian and Chinese forces have been building new positions, roads and other infrastructure on either side of the border for years. India has traditionally lagged behind China and politicians in New Delhi have warned that Indian forces are now at a disadvantage.

Patrols and construction projects have occasionally brought Chinese and Indian troops into conflict, but major violence has largely been avoided. This is in part thanks to a long-running convention that troops in the region do not carry firearms.

June's deadly clashes raised fears of limited conflict between the giant nuclear-armed neighbors. Reinforcements have swelled troop numbers to almost 100,000 along the Himalayan frontier. Since then, delegations have been meeting to de-escalate tensions. The ninth and latest round of talks were held on Sunday and, according to Indian media, lasted for nearly 16 hours.

Indian soldiers near China border tensions clash
This file photo taken on November 26, 2020, shows an Indian soldier on a snow-covered road near the Zoji La mountain pass that connects Srinagar to Ladakh and the border with China. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images/Getty