There was tension between India and China in the sensitive Chumar area of Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control after People's Liberation Army troops arrested three Indian nationals on 11 December and kept them in custody for a week.
However, the three – supposedly Indian Army porters, along with their mules – were returned after a flag meeting. ''Civilians (and not army porters) were involved in the incident and the issue was resolved amicably by the army under the existing mechanism,'' the Army said in New Delhi on Sunday.
Army sources said the three Indian nationals ''had gone across the international border to retrieve their horses which strayed across the international border at Chumar''.
However, reports say the three Indian nationals were apprehended by the PLA troops a few km inside the Indian territory in Chumar area and were taken to their camp across the LAC in an apparent bid to stake their claim on the area.
The Army Headquarters sought to play down the incident saying that the matter was resolved ''amicably'' but sources said the Chinese side relented only after the local Indian Army authorities sought a flag meeting on the matter and warned that the issue would be raised at a higher level.
The latest border incident has come after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement with China in October seeking to prevent any flare-ups between the armies of the two countries on the LAC (See: India, China ink pact on border defence cooperation).
Chumar has been one of the most active areas on the LAC in terms of transgressions by the Chinese troops.
Both Indian and Chinese armies have been conducting "aggressive patrolling" along all the three sectors of the 4,057-km long unresolved LAC - western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) - to strengthen their claims to disputed territories. India, for instance, has recorded close to 700 "transgressions" by PLA troops across the LAC in the last three years.
Chumar has witnessed several "tense" incidents and face-offs between the two forces in recent years, with China already irked about India's re-activation of the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), Fukche and Nyoma advanced landing grounds and construction of some posts along the LAC in Ladakh over the last five to six years to match the massive infrastructure build-up by PLA in the region.
Chumar was also the bone of contention during the 21-day military face-off in April-May that saw the two rival armies pitching tents and indulging in banner drills after PLA troops intruded 19 km into Indian territory in the Depsang Bulge area of the DBO sector.
The main pre-condition laid down by the PLA to withdraw from Depsang during the face-off was that India should dismantle the temporary bunkers it had constructed in Chumar, which incidentally is some 250 km south of DBO.
The crisis was finally defused on 5 May after India dismantled what it called "a tin shed" at Chumar and the PLA troops simultaneously withdrew from Depsang (Army destroys bunkers as face-off with China ends).