‘India did not behave’: Chinese media says drone crash was at Doklam

The consequence of this “intrusion” could be far worse than losing a drone, the state-run Global Times said in an editorial titled ‘India must apologise for drone intrusion’.

world Updated: Dec 10, 2017 08:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
A Chinese soldier gestures next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in 2008. On August 28, 2017, India said that troops were disengaging from a months-long stand-off with the Chinese military at Doklam. (AFP File Photo)

The Indian drone that crashed in Chinese territory did so in the Donglang (Doklam) sector near the Sikkim boundary — at the same location where border troops from India and China were involved in a long and tense military standoff earlier this year.

The consequence of this “intrusion” could be far worse than losing a drone, Chinese state media said.

On Thursday, China said an Indian drone “invaded” its airspace before crashing on its side of the border recently, prompting Beijing to lodge protests with India.

New Delhi attributed it to a technical problem with an unmanned aerial vehicle that was on a routine training mission.

Neither the Chinese military nor the ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) said when or exactly where the drone had crossed over to Chinese territory except sharing that the incident took place at the Sino-India border in Sikkim.

As it turns out, the incident took place in Doklam – an area under China’s control but claimed by Bhutan. “The intrusion took place at the same location where a standoff broke off not too long ago between the Chinese and Indian militaries,” China’s nationalistic tabloid Global Times said in an editorial on Saturday.

Titled “India must apologise for drone intrusion”, the editorial said: “In a time and at a location so sensitive, both sides should have avoided acting in ways that the other might perceive as provocative to prevent new frictions arising”.

“But India clearly did not behave itself,” the editorial said. The 70-day military standoff between India and Chinese border troops was resolved end-August when the two countries withdrew troops from Doklam after Beijing indicated it had halted work on a road that triggered the row.

Experts in China had then told HT that Beijing lacked deterrence against external provocation like the one it was exposed to in Doklam. The GT editorial indicated that the standoff – and the fact that Indian troops were on territory claimed by China for 70 days -- is fresh in Beijing’s mind.

“Even if it is a technical problem, why is that technical problem happening at the exact wrong place and wrong time? If a Chinese drone flew into Indian territory due to a technical failure, would India accept an explanation that such an incident was a mere accident,” the editorial asked.

“The Indian military has gone too far. New Delhi is relying excessively on China’s goodwill to maintain friendly relations with India. The Indian military trespassed into Chinese territory this summer and then a drone did it again.”

It added: “Taken together, these actions show India’s provocative attitude. China has the full right to handle the Indian drone issue as it sees fit and the right to take further actions based on the results of the investigation and India’s attitude.”

“We don’t want a specific incident to damage China-India relations but that does not mean China will concede on its principles. India did not learn its lessons from the Doklam standoff and its military’s provocation in the border areas is ongoing. China needs to respond strongly,” the editorial said.

When news of the drone’s crash first emerged a few days ago, sources in India’s defence establishment told Hindustan Times that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that crashed was an Israeli-made Heron, a medium-altitude long endurance drone used in mountainous terrain for surveillance and intelligence gathering along the frontiers with China and Pakistan. This is the first time a Heron has been lost in a cross-border incident, they added.

The Indian Army has a fleet of about 45 Heron UAVs, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, some of which are deployed along the border with China for surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 10:54 IST