India asks China to maintain status quo on border

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Emphasising that New Delhi and Beijing had “differing perceptions” of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India Tuesday said it has asked China to maintain status quo that existed before the April 15 incursion by Chinese troops in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in Ladakh that led to a “face-to-face situation” between their troops.

“We see this as a face to face situation between the border personnel of the two sides due to differences on their alignment of the LAC. We have asked the Chinese side to maintain status quo in this sector, by which I mean status quo prior to this incident,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The term “face-to-face” is referred to the 2005 protocol for implementing CBMs along the LAC. According to the protocol, when border personnel of the two sides come face to face, they are to exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to prevent the situation from escalating, he said.

Terming the incident as a “localized event”, the spokesperson said that “overall, the India-China border area continues to remain peaceful”. Both sides have peacefully resolved similar incidents in the past “and we hope to resolve this incident too peacefully”, the official added.

“This is a sector in which there are differing perceptions of the LAC, and that is why we have since 1996 been maintaining that there is need for both sides to work together in clarifying the LAC,” said the spokesperson.

According to reports, Chinese troops intruded 10 km into the Indian territory in Ladakh and set up a tented post there. The Indian Army is also reported to have moved in more troops in the region. Beijing has denied any incursion across the Line of Actual Control, which is a notional line.

Indian and Chinese armies Tuesday held a brigadier-level flag meeting at Daulat Beg Oldie, the highest airstrip in the world at 5,100 metres that India reactivated in 2008, sources said.

Flag meetings are a mechanism to deal with emergent situations. They supplement the border personnel meetings that are held twice a year at various points along the India-China border.

Listing out steps taken by India after the incident was reported April 15, Akbaruddin said Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary (East Asia), who chairs the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs, spoke to his counterpart, who is the director general border affairs of the Chinese foreign ministry.

“Subsequently on April 18, there was a flag meeting and following that on April 18 evening, the foreign secretary (Ranjan Mathai) expressed the concerns of the government of India to the ambassador of China in Delhi,” he said.

“In our view, we see this as a situation of differing perception,” said Akbaruddin.

“We believe that this ongoing incident can be handled on the basis of agreements between the two and through mechanisms established to resolve such situations peacefully,” he added.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said Monday that India will take “every step” to protect its interests to resolve the situation arising out of the alleged incursion by Chinese troops into Indian territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had said Monday that “China’s frontier troops have been abiding by the agreement between the two countries and abiding by the LAC agreed by the two countries”.

“Our frontier troops have been patrolling on the China’s side of LAC,” Hua had said, adding: “Our troops are patrolling on the Chinese side of the LAC and have never trespassed the line.”

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