The Chinese government on Wednesday said neither China nor India “should change the status quo” along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), a day after Indian officials said that last month Chinese troops took away a camera located near an Indian Army post.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Chinese troops were “patrolling along the Chinese side of the LAC of the China-India border” when asked about the incident, which took place in Chumar sector in southern Ladakh around three weeks back.
Ms. Hua's suggestion was that the incident took place within what China sees as its side of the LAC. However, as both sides have differing perceptions of where the LAC lies in this area, what Ms. Hua described as the “Chinese side of the LAC” likely refers to areas that India sees as falling within its claim lines.
After a People's Liberation Army (PLA) patrol took away the camera, set up only 6 km ahead of the Indian Army post, the matter was raised by India at a border personnel meeting on June 19. China returned the camera earlier this month after India raised its objections.
Ms. Hua said she was not aware of the specifics of the incident, but added that “the general situation in the border areas is stable.” Both sides, she said, had “a consensus” that pending the final settlement of the boundary question, neither “should change the status quo along the LAC”.
A lack of clarity about where overlapping claim-lines run, coupled with what Indian officials see as more frequent PLA patrolling in disputed areas enabled by China's investments in border infrastructure, has led to a number of recent incidents along the LAC, which has not been clearly demarcated. Officials say consultations aimed at clarifying each other’s perceptions have moved forward slowly.
In an effort aimed at bridging differences, both sides last week, during the visit of Defence Minister A.K. Antony to China, agreed to increase both the frequency and number of locations of border personnel meetings held along the LAC, and to also expand direct contact between the militaries at various levels.
Officials said last week they hoped greater contact would boost strategic trust, particularly in the wake of new strains following the April 15 incursion by Chinese troops, who set up four tents in Depsang in eastern Ladakh. The move was seen by analysts as a provocation, as while both sides had in the past carried out patrols in areas where claims were overlapping, neither had taken the step of putting up a tent.
It took as long as three weeks for the situation in Depsang to be resolved – and for China to agree to return to the status quo prior to the incursion – prompting both countries to reexamine and enhance the boundary mechanisms that are in place to deal with such incidents.