A day after India landed a military aircraft close to the China border in the north in a "show of muscle", reports on Wednesday said Chinese soldiers not only came deep into the Indian side in the Northeast last week but also stayed on for three days.
The ministry of external affairs (MEA) downplayed the incursion in Arunachal Pradesh’s Chaglagam area, calling it a "non-event" based on army inputs.
Army sources, however, privately confirmed that a "long-range Chinese patrol" comprising 20-30 soldiers had crossed the line of actual control (LAC) and camped 20-30km inside Indian territory for three days. The news came in as army officers of both sides were meeting in Kolkata to draw plans for a joint exercise.
China has been increasingly getting aggressive along the disputed LAC in both the northern and eastern sectors. India has taken many countermeasures and those could have been a trigger for the recent escalation of tensions, a source said.
“There has been a rebuttal by the army on this and we don’t want to go beyond that…We don’t focus on non-events in diplomatic practice,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Wednesday.
An army source said, “There was no face-off between the two sides. Long-range patrols carry out surveillance for 10-12 days. Such incidents keep taking place as both sides enter into areas claimed by the other.” China claims parts of Arunachal as its own, which India stoutly denies.
More than 200 Chinese incursions are reported every year. But the frequency of Indian patrols into what Beijing claims to be its territory is higher, HT reported on July 30.
The latest violation comes four months after People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops took up positions and pitched tents 19 km into Indian territory in Ladakh’s Depsang plains, triggering a three-week long tense diplomatic stand-off. The last few months have been “busy”, with reports of intrusions coming in frequently.
The latest incident comes at a time when the Indian and Chinese armies are laying the groundwork for a possible joint exercise in China’s Chengdu military region in November.
Brigadier-level delegations from the two sides met in Kolkata on Wednesday to work out the contours of the 10-day exercise, an army source said. But experts warn that repeated Chinese incursions could come in the way of mending military ties.
China has objected to increased military activity and ramping up of infrastructure on the Indian side of the LAC -- at least eight advance landing grounds have been made operational in Arunachal in the recent years, including one at Walong, located east of the last week’s incursion site.
Observation posts, bunkers and surveillance equipment in the Ladakh sector have also caused unease. The Chinese say some of the build-ups along the LAC are in violation of protocols governing borders that have not been mutually delineated.
New Delhi has declared it has no plans to slam the brakes on infrastructure development. Last month, the government cleared a mountain strike corps, with more than 45,000 soldiers, for the Northeast.
The Chinese aggression also coincides with the repeated breach of ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The two sides continue to exchange fire 15 days after Pakistani troops killed five Indian soldiers in a cross-border raid.