‘Should work together, fight Covid-19’: China to India after Sikkim face-off
China on Monday sought to downplay the latest round of aggressive confrontation between Indian and Chinese soldiers in north Sikkim over the weekend, saying both countries should jointly uphold peace and handle differences.
The Chinese foreign ministry didn’t share details about the clash that injured border troops from both sides but attempted to subtly shift the blame to the Indian side, saying Chinese soldiers were always upholding peace and tranquility along the border.
The Chinese defence ministry is yet to comment on the incident, which took place at Naku La in north Sikkim at over 5000 metres altitude on Saturday.
Reports of the clash brought back memories of the 73-day face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in 2017 near the Sikkim border in Doklam, which plunged bilateral ties into a chill for months.
Confirming an HT report on the clash, the Indian army on Sunday said “a heated confrontation took place between Indian and Chinese soldiers in north Sikkim on Saturday, resulting in injuries to troops on both sides”.
“Incident of face-off as referred to in the (HT) article did take place. Aggressive behaviour by the two sides resulted in minor injuries to troops,” the Indian army statement said.
The troops disengaged after talks held at the local army level.
The Chinese foreign ministry, however, did not share specifics of the incident.
“Chinese Border troops have always been upholding peace and tranquility along our border areas. China and India stay in close communication and coordination concerning our border affairs within existing channels,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said at the regular ministry briefing on Monday.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of our establishment of diplomatic ties and the two countries are joining hands in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.
“Under such circumstances the two sides should work together with each other, properly manage and handle the differences, earnestly uphold peace and stability in the border region so as to create enabling conditions for our bilateral relations as well as the joint fight against Covid-19,” Zhao added.
Zhao denied that China is adopting an aggressive approach in its diplomacy as it fights off the Covid-19 in the country.
“The relevant assumption is groundless,” he said, answering a question on the subject.
“Since the outbreak of the Covid-19, China and India have been staying in close communication and cooperation on prevention and control, to jointly meet the challenges. Now, the most pressing concern for the international community is solidarity and cooperation against Covid-19. We shouldn’t allow any politicisation or stigmatisation in a bid to create more differences or confrontation,” Zhao said.
India and China have held dozen rounds of talks to resolve the 3,488 km of disputed border stretching from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
In 2017, China had accused India of trespassing and preventing its troops from building a road in the Himalayan plateau Doklam (Donglang in Chinese), which is under Chinese control but claimed by Bhutan.
The standoff began in June and ended in August after troops from both armies withdrew.
Speaking to state-controlled media, a Chinese scholar said the China-India border issue was left over from the past and both sides have a different perception.
“Despite this, the two countries’ leaderships and related authorities have established communication mechanisms. Their effectiveness was demonstrated by this incident as the problem was solved at the local level and did not escalate to a national level,” Qian Feng, a senior fellow at the Taihe Institute and director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing told state media.