India said on Thursday that China had recently undertaken activity that affected its “normal patrolling patterns”, and that the two sides have “established mechanisms to resolve such situations peacefully through dialogue”.
In the latest remarks following the border scuffle between troops from both sides early this month, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “Both sides remain engaged with each other to address any immediate issues.”
However, responding to a separate question at the media briefing, on the contentious South China Sea issue, the MEA spokesperson said: “This has been clear and consistent that the South China Sea is a part of global commons and India has an abiding interest in peace and stability in the region. We firmly stand with the freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in these international waterways, in accordance with international law… India also believes that any differences, be resolved peacefully by respecting the legal and diplomatic processes, and without resorting to threat or use of force.”
China has laid claim to almost all of the South China Sea, brushing aside the claims of Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Brunei, and Indonesia. It has also been involved in maritime face-offs with other nations on this issue.
Earlier, referring to the recent border tussle, the spokesperson said that all Indian activities are “entirely” on the Indian side of the LAC.
“Any suggestion that Indian troops had undertaken activity across the LAC in the Western Sector or the Sikkim sector is not accurate. Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas and abide by it scrupulously,” he said.
“In fact, it is the Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns. The Indian side has always taken a very responsible approach towards border management. At the same time, we are deeply committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and security,” he said.
Sources told The Indian Express that the latest line is also an indication that New Delhi had decided to stay firm on the construction of a strategically significant road in Ladakh that goes up to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) at the base of the Karakoram pass.
India has maintained that it is “rightfully” constructing the 255-km all-weather road to upgrade the existing route comprising dirt tracks. So far, India has been “heli-dropping” men and material to DBO — a link that is dependent on weather conditions.
Sources said Chinese troops had been tracking India’s progress before deciding to raise the heat. “The decision to not back off has been taken after due consideration at the highest levels” in New Delhi, the sources said.
The spokesperson said that Indian troops “strictly” follow procedures laid down in bilateral agreements and protocols to resolve any situations that may arise due to differences in perception of the LAC.
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In accordance with the consensus reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Chennai and Mahabalipuram last year, India remains “firmly committed” to the “common objective” of peace in border areas, the spokesperson said.
In the first week of May, Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Naku La area in north Sikkim, and Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh, engaged in a face-off with scuffles and stone-pelting.
The Army later stated that its soldiers had disengaged after the intervention of senior officers at the local level.
In a statement following those events, Army Chief General M M Naravane had used the term “aggressive behaviour” for the Chinese side — a term that was missing from the latest MEA remarks.
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