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27 Jun 2017

China blames Indian military for Sikkim trouble as face-off destroys bunkers, says will defend rights

People’s Liberation ArmySutirtho Patranobis , HT, 26 June 2017, Beijing: The Chinese army on Monday accused the Indian military of provoking tension along the Line of Actual Control in Sikkim, where the two sides were reportedly involved in a tense confrontation earlier this month.
Indian and Chinese troops scuffled near the Doka La area in the first week of June, PTI reported earlier in the day quoting unnamed sources, before soldiers from Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) damaged bunkers on the Indian side.
The stand-off in Sikkim comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Washington and is expected to negotiate a deal to buy American surveillance drones and reinvigorate strategic ties, moves that could rile Beijing.
The confrontation in Sikkim snowballed with the Chinese side deciding to stop last week the Kailash Mansarovar yatra through Sikkim that Indian pilgrims take to travel to Tibet, according to the report.
The PLA had a different sequence of events, accusing Indian soldiers of interfering in its sovereignty.
“Recently, the Chinese side in the Donglang area for road construction, was blocked by the Indian Army line,” a late-night statement from the PLA said. “The construction of the above-mentioned roads by the Chinese side is entirely a sovereign act in its own territory, and the Indian side has no right to interfere.”
For decades, ties between India and China have remained fraught over stretches of their disputed Himalayan border and competing geo-political ambitions. The two sides fought a short but bloody border war in 1962.
On Monday, the PLA said the problem persisted despite a meeting between the two sides and the Indian military “unilaterally provoked trouble”.
“China is committed to developing bilateral relations between China and India, but also firmly defend their legitimate rights and interests. It is hoped that the Indian meet China halfway and do not take any complication of the border issue and jointly maintain the good momentum of development of bilateral relations,” the statement said.
According to the PTI report, the Indian Army twice asked the Chinese to join a flag meeting after the confrontation. Both requests were turned down before the Chinese side agreed to a meeting on June 20. It was then that they conveyed to their Indian counterparts that pilgrims would not be allowed to cross into Tibet.
The pilgrims were kept waiting till June 23 after which they returned to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, which is the only region where the border between India and China is demarcated, according to PTI.
The Line of Actual Control is the de-facto, 4,000-km long border that India and China share in regions that they both claim as their territory.
It is not the first time that a transgression has happened at Doka La, on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.
Chinese forces had in November 2008 destroyed makeshift Indian army bunkers.
Earlier this year, Chinese helicopters entered Indian airspace in the Barahoti area of Uttarakhand.
(With PTI inputs)

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