Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were patrolling the Chinese side of the disputed frontier with India along Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing said on Wednesday, dismissing reports that hundreds of its troops had crossed the border last week.
Around 250 PLA soldiers reportedly crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh on June 9, reports had quoted unnamed Indian defence officers as saying.
The incursion by Chinese troops was temporary and they went back to their own territory within hours, the reports had said.
“The India-China border has not been clearly demarcated. This was a regular patrol on the Chinese side of the LAC,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a regular news briefing.
It is rare for incursions to take place – or at least to be reported – in the eastern sector along Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims and shows on maps as “south Tibet”.
Tawang, a major urban centre in the Indian state, is about 400 km from Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Indian defence officers said this was the first incursion in the region this year.
India and China have an unresolved, heavily militarised border running about 3,488 km. Much of the confusion arises, according to diplomats and experts, because the border is not delineated, leading to competing claims.
China’s foreign ministry reiterated the same point while dismissing the reported incursion on Wednesday.
China is sensitive about its claims on Arunachal Pradesh and reacts sharply when any Indian VIP visits the state. Beijing had reacted angrily when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state in February 2015, condemning his tour in strong words.
A foreign ministry statement said the Chinese government has never recognised “the so-called Arunachal Pradesh” and it was “strongly opposed” to Modi’s visit. It said there was a “huge controversy” in the eastern border region.
Broadly, officials claim incidents of incursions have gone down or are quickly resolved by military-to-military mechanisms put in place to defuse such situations. There are five points along the border for officials from both sides to meet, and a sixth one is being considered.
In 2015, two new meeting points at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh and Kibithoo in Arunachal Pradesh were opened. The other three points are Spanngur Gap in Ladakh, Bum-La in Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in Sikkim.