Border spat dogs possible India visit

By Chen Chen in New Delhi and Yang Jingjie in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-26 2:13:01

China's defense ministry Thursday refuted foreign reports about Chinese border troops and military helicopters "intruding" across the line of actual control between India and China. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is reportedly going to visit India next month.

Yang Yujun, spokesperson of the ministry, told a monthly press briefing Thursday that the military has noticed such reports, noting they "don't tally with the facts."

"Currently, border troops from China and India are maintaining communications through the existing mechanism. Chinese border troops have strictly observed relevant agreements between China and India and have been working to safeguard border peace and tranquility," he said.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Wednesday that two Chinese military helicopters entered Indian airspace on Sunday and hovered over the area for quite some time, then returned after dropping some food cans, cigarette packets and notes written in Chinese, citing unidentified official sources.

The report added to the border tensions between the two sides, following Indian claims that a platoon of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on April 15 "moved 10 kilometers inside the Indian territory in Ladakh region and established a tented post there."

In response, India beefed up its military strength in the area, leading to a standoff. India's foreign ministry also summoned China's ambassador over the issue.

Zhang Yongpan, a researcher with the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the standoff took place in the western section of the disputed border between China and India. "The disputed region in Aksai Chin occupies an area of about 20,000 square kilometers," he said.

After dismissing reports about alleged trespassing by Chinese troops for three days in a row, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, Thursday once again refuted accusations that China had provoked border tensions.

"China and India are neighbors. Given that their lines of demarcation haven't been finalized, it's inevitable that problems may arise in the border region. When problems surfaced, both sides have held friendly negotiations for settlement through relevant mechanisms and channels," she said. "I believe this time the problem can also be properly solved, and won't affect peace and tranquility in border regions or the normal development of bilateral ties."

According to Indian media, a flag meeting was held on Tuesday between local military commanders from both sides. Another flag meeting will reportedly be held on Friday.

Meanwhile, India's foreign minister Salman Khurshid Thursday said he would visit China on May 9, AFP reported. "I believe we have a mutual interest and we should not destroy years of contribution we have put together," he said.

Khurshid's visit has been viewed as part of preparations for Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to India on May 20, as The Times of India paper reported. It also said Li will go to Pakistan after the visit to India.

When contacted by the Global Times on Thursday, China's foreign ministry said it couldn't verify the news as it doesn't have the relevant information at present. The Indian embassy in Beijing referred the inquiry to China's foreign ministry, without confirming the report.

If verified, it will be Li's first overseas visit as premier.

Han Hua, director of the Center for Arms Control and Disarmament at the School of International Studies under Peking University, told the Global Times that choosing India as the first stop of the premier's visit shows China's will to improve ties, but that the current standoff may cast a shadow on the visit.

"Reports about Chinese troops' cross-border patrols are not rare in Indian media. However, the latest hyping came at an inappropriate time before the premier's visit, and it was also inappropriate to summon the ambassador," Han said, adding there had been speculation that New Delhi may hope to "fish in troubled waters" as Beijing is caught in an island dispute with Tokyo.

According to Zhang, compared with the eastern section of the disputed border, Aksai Chin, which is at high altitude and scarcely populated, is less disputed, because it doesn't have many natural resources.

Posted in: Diplomacy, Asia-Pacific

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