China on Monday reacted guardedly to the recent clashes between the Chinese and Indian soldiers, saying its troops remained “committed to uphold peace and tranquillity” at the border areas.
Answering questions on the clashes near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector which resulted in injuries to both sides, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the most pressing issue for the world at present is the fight against the coronavirus. “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and India have been staying in close communication and cooperation on prevention and control to jointly meet challenges”, he said.
“Now the most pressing issue 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”, he said. Asked whether the clashes which took place on May 5-6 anyway reflects an aggressive approach by China post the COVID-19 outbreak, Zhao said, “relevant assumption is groundless”. “As to the China-India border issue, our position is clear and consistent,” he said. “Our troops there are committed to uphold peace and stability.”
“This serves the common interests of our two countries and two peoples. We hope India will work with China to uphold peace and tranquillity in the border regions with concrete actions”, he said.
Zhao cautiously skirted any direct reference to the incident nor gave any details of the clashes. “Chinese border troops have always been upholding peace and tranquillity along our border areas. China and India stay in close communication and coordination concerning our border affairs with existing channels”, he said.
“This year marks the 70th year of establishment of the diplomatic relations between India and China, and the two countries have joined hands to fight against COVID-19”, he said. “Under such circumstances both sides should work together with each other and properly manage and handle the differences and earnestly uphold peace and stability in the border region so as to create enabling conditions for our bilateral relations as well as joint fight against COVID-19”, he said.
Troops of India and China were engaged in two fierce face-offs in Eastern Ladakh and near Naku La Pass in Northern Sikkim recently, leaving several soldiers on both sides injured.
In the first incident, scores of Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed along the northern bank of the Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh on the late evening of May 5 and the face-off ended next morning following a dialogue between the two sides. A number of soldiers on both sides sustained minor injuries as they exchanged punches and resorted to stone-pelting, the sources said, adding around 200 personnel were involved in the face-off. Both sides brought in additional troops following the fracas.
It was the first case of troops from both sides exchanging blows after a similar incident had taken place around the Pangong Lake in August 2017.
In a separate incident, nearly 150 Indian and Chinese military personnel were engaged in a face-off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector of the Sino-India border in which at least 10 soldiers sustained injuries.
The troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction in 2017, which triggered fears of a war between the two neighbours.
The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border between the two countries. Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first informal summit in April 2018 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, months after the Doklam standoff. During the summit, the two leaders decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications so that they can build trust and understanding.
Modi and Xi held their second informal summit in Mamallapuram near Chennai in October last year with a focus on further broadening the bilateral ties.
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