China reinforced its troops near the Indian border with mountain climbers and martial arts fighters shortly before a deadly clash this month, state media reported.
Tensions in the mountainous border terrain are common between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, but this month’s fighting was their deadliest encounter in nearly 50 years.
Five new militia divisions, including former members of a Mount Everest Olympic torch relay team and fighters from a mixed martial arts club, presented themselves for inspection at Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on June 15, official military newspaper China National Defense News reported.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of hundreds of new troops lining up in the Tibetan capital.
Tibet commander Wang Haijiang said the Enbo Fight Club recruits would “greatly raise the organisation and mobilisation strength” of troops and their “rapid response and support ability,” China National Defence News reported, although he did not explicitly confirm their deployment was linked to ongoing border tensions.
Later that day, Indian and Chinese troops brawled for several hours in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, using stones and nail-studded clubs to beat each other, killing 20 Indian soldiers and injuring at least 76 more.
The clash on June 15 was the deadliest conflict between the two sides in 45 years. China has not said whether it suffered any casualties.
The neighbours have continued to blame each other for the high-altitude battle.
India said on Thursday that it had reinforced its troops in the contested Himalayan border region, saying it was matching a similar buildup by China.
Chinese state media have in recent weeks highlighted military activity, including high-altitude anti-aircraft drills in the Tibet region bordering India.
The new troops were recruited with the aim of “strengthening the border and stabilising Tibet”, China National Defence News said.
India claims Chinese troops ambushed Indian soldiers and forced them down a ridge where they had gone to remove a Chinese “encroachment”.
A bilateral accord prevents the use of guns but the fighting, with rudimentary weapons, was still fierce.
China has, in turn, accused Indian soldiers of twice crossing the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border, provoking its troops.
The two countries fought a war over the border in 1962. There is an understanding between the nuclear-armed neighbours that their troops in the disputed and inhospitable region will not use firearms.
China claims about 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of territory in India’s northeast, while India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 square miles) of its territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas, a contiguous part of the Ladakh region.
India unilaterally declared Ladakh a federal territory, carving it out of Indian-administered Kashmir in August 2019. China was among the countries to condemn the move, raising it at forums including the UN Security Council.