Violation of airspace: U’khand CM holds meeting with army, airforce
Two days after a “suspected” Chinese helicopter violated Indian airspace in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat discussed the sensitive issue “at length” with senior army and airforce officers here on Mondaydehradun Updated: Jun 05, 2017 20:27 IST
Two days after a “suspected” Chinese helicopter violated Indian airspace in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat discussed the sensitive issue “at length” with senior army and airforce officers here on Monday.
He said it was not clear whether the helicopter that violated Indian airspace over Barahoti was a Chinese copter. “We have no authentic information about that. However, (airspace violation) being an issue concerning the International Boundary, it is beyond our purview and the Centre alone will consider it,” he told Hindustan Times.
Rawat downplayed his meeting with top army and airforce officials, saying it had got nothing to do with air space violation. “It was called to discuss ways and means to step up development to check forced migration from the border districts,” he said about the closed-door meeting which was also attended by chief secretary S Ramaswamy, two additional chief secretaries and the commissioners of Garhwal and Kumaon.
Beijing has defended PLA helicopters hovering over Barahoti region, saying India and China have a territorial dispute in the eastern section of their boundary and the Chinese military carry out regular patrolling in the relevant areas. “We hope that the two sides will make joint efforts to maintain tranquillity and peace in the border areas,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the media.
In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India would raise the airspace violation with China.
Sources in Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) said vigilance and security has been stepped up on the Sino-Indian border. According to police authorities, the Chinese helicopter violated Indian airspace at 9:14am on Saturday. “We can’t say for sure that it was a Chinese helicopter but it flew into Indian airspace from the side of Tibet,” Chamoli superintendent of police Tripti Bhatt told Hindustan Times. She said the helicopter hovered over Barahoti for about four minutes before it flew back.
Sources in ITBP said all top army and airforce authorities were immediately informed after the Chinese helicopter was noticed over Chamoli. “Besides informing our superiors, we immediately stepped up vigilance and security on this side of the Sino-India border,” an ITBP official said.
Incidentally, ITBP sought to downplay the episode. “Such airspace violations are not a matter of concern as they happen as a normal course, especially in summer, when they (the Chinese) deploy their troops on their side of the international border,” said a senior ITBP official. “In fact, such violations also happen from our side in winters when we fly helicopters along the international border to keep a vigil on our border outposts.”
The ITBP official said the Sino-Indian border touching Uttarakhand is known as a ‘white zone.’ “That means it’s a border area free of skirmishes between the troops from both sides.” The official downplayed former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna’s statement that the Chinese troops intruded into Barahoti area 35 times during his almost two-year tenure. “Such intrusions mostly happened in 2013 because China became suspicious about air sorties carried out to supply succour for people hit by the cataclysmic floods.”