India says troops in brief border skirmish with Chinese soldiers

KOLKATA (Reuters) - Indian and Chinese troops on border patrols skirmished briefly in the northeastern state of Sikkim neighbouring China, the south Asian nation’s defence ministry said on Sunday, blaming “aggressive behaviour on both sides”.

Deep mistrust persists between India and China over a festering border dispute that triggered a brief war in 1962, but clashes are rare, though each has often accused the other of intrusions into its territory.

Four Indian soldiers and seven Chinese troops were injured when some exchanged blows in Saturday’s confrontation that involved about 150 soldiers, India’s Hindustan Times newspaper said, citing a military source.

“Aggressive behavior by the two sides resulted in minor injuries to troops,” the defence ministry said in its statement. “The two sides disengaged after dialogue and interaction at the local level.”

The incident took place in the Nakula area, the ministry added, but gave no details of how the incident started, or the cause of the injuries.

In Beijing on Monday, the foreign ministry did not acknowledge if the incident happened, saying instead that the neighbours have maintained close communications and coordination over existing channels.

“Chinese border troops have consistently upheld the peace and tranquility in its border areas,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

In 2017, the most serious standoff in years saw hundreds of troops from both sides deployed on the Doklam plateau, near the borders of India, Bhutan, and China after India objected to Chinese construction of a road in the Himalayan area.

Reporting by Subrata Nagchoudhury in Kolkata; Additional reporting by Huizhong Wu; Writing by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Frances Kerry and Clarence Fernandez