China on Monday blamed India soldiers for a skirmish between forces of the two sides in Ladakh last week, saying Indian troops triggered the scuffle, even as reports emerged of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducting military drills that were meant to “strike awe in India”. 

The foreign ministry said China has lodged its “serious concerns” with India over the skirmish, which occurred near Pangong Lake and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

The skirmish between the border troops took place against the backdrop of the military standoff in the Donglang or Doklam area near the Sikkim border 

Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted military drills at an undisclosed location, with the state media quoting analysts as saying that the manoeuvres were meant to “strike awe in India”. 

On August 15, troops from the two countries clashed at another area near Pangong lake in a remote part of Ladakh. Indian troops stopped Chinese soldiers from crossing the LAC and entering the Indian side. Reports said troops from both sides “pelted” stones at each other before the situation was defused. 

“According to the information, on August 15, the Chinese border troops conducted a normal patrol on the Chinese side of the LAC around Pangong area,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing. 

“During this process, the Indian side took some violent actions and injured the Chinese border personnel. This has violated the consensus between the Indian and Chinese side in relation to the border issues,” she added. “China has expressed grave dissatisfaction and we have lodged serious concerns to the Indian side.” 

India was told “to strictly discipline” the Indian border troops involved in the incident in Ladakh to “earnestly uphold the peace and tranquillity of the boundary area”, she said.

China has already called for the unilateral withdrawal of Indian troops from Donglang area, which is under Beijing’s control but claimed by Bhutan. 

China’s official media pointed out that the PLA’s latest drills were held “amid tensions in Doklam” with “trespassing Indian troops”. 

The nationalistic Global Times tabloid reported: “The Lianhe Zaobao newspaper on Friday quoted analysts as saying such Chinese PLA military exercises are meant to ‘strike awe in India’ as the two sides have been engaged in a standoff in Doklam for more than two months, and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is closest to India, is where the Western Theatre Command is most prominent.” 

Another official media report said: “China Central Television reported on Friday that more than 10 PLA units, including aviation units and armoured forces, participated in the drills. The five-minute-long video showed tanks firing at targets on hills, followed by helicopters firing missiles at ground targets.” 

It added, “The report did not mention the location of the exercises, only saying the drills ‘lay the ground for plateau warfare’.” 

The drills were conducted by PLA’s Western Theatre Command that covers Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Qinghai, Sichuan and Chongqing. They were the latest in the flurry of exercises that the PLA has held in the past few months. 

“In July, one of PLA’s two plateau mountain brigades conducted live-fire drills in Tibet. The drills included the quick arrival of troops and different military units working together on joint attacks. The brigade has long been stationed around the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river and is responsible for frontline combat missions,” the report said.