Border tension escalates, Foreign Secretary summons Chinese envoy to lodge protest

FP

The face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Depsang valley in Ladakh has taken a serious turn. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned the Chinese ambassador to South Block last week to lodge an official protest against the forward deployment.

Sources said Mathai made it clear to Ambassador Wei Wei that such posturing was unhelpful in building the right atmosphere before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit, likely on May 20. Li is slated to go to Pakistan from India.

Wei was told that India wanted the issue to be resolved soon, which meant that the Chinese troops must pull back from their current camping position.

However, in today's routine media interaction, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asserted that China's forces had not crossed the Line of Actual Control. "China's frontier troops are seriously abiding by the agreement between both countries as well as the Line of Actual Control. Our troops are patrolling the Chinese side of the LAC and have never trespassed that line," the spokesperson said.

This, sources said, echoed the line the Chinese took at the April 18 flag meeting at the local military commanders' level. India then activated the joint mechanism to deal with such issues on the boundary. However, the Chinese counterpart of the MEA joint secretary leading this mechanism is learnt to have conveyed that Beijing was unaware of any such incident.

The Indian side suggested that Beijing should bring clarity to the issue at the earliest, and the matter be resolved through another flag meeting. Sources said India also asked for a second flag meeting, only to be told locally that it was not possible because the local Chinese commander had gone to his headquarters for consultation. New Delhi was on Monday hoping that the commander would return with instructions to de-escalate the situation.

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