Beijing rejects reports of incursions by its troops in western sector

As India and China on Tuesday held their second day of talks on border issues in New Delhi, the Chinese government said its troops carried out only “routine patrolling activities” on “the Chinese side” of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), rejecting a number of recent reports of incursions by soldiers.

On Monday, Indian and Chinese officials in New Delhi held the fifth meeting of a newly set up consultation and coordination mechanism, established two years ago with the aim of improving communication and addressing on-the-ground issues along the border.

The two countries are also holding their 17th round of negotiations on the boundary dispute on Monday and Tuesday, with Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councillor and top diplomat Yang Jiechi taking forward slow-moving negotiations on a framework to settle the dispute in western, middle and eastern sectors.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing that China expected “positive progress” from the on-going consultations, which are likely to be last major engagement between the two countries on boundary issues before this year’s elections in India.

“This round of talks is an important effort made by the two sides to settle border affairs,” she said, adding that “we have every reason to believe that the ongoing talks will produce positive progress so that we can as soon as possible find a framework acceptable to both sides”.

Ms. Hua also rejected the regular reports of incursions by Chinese troops in the western sector, in the Ladakh region.

The statement issued by India on Monday following the fifth round of talks of the consultations mechanism specifically mentioned that both sides had “reviewed recent developments in the India-China border areas especially in the Western Sector”.

The situation along the western sector also received prominent mention during the previous round of consultations in Beijing in September.

Last year’s talks took place months after a three-week-long standoff in Depsang, in eastern Ladakh, when Chinese troops pitched a tent in disputed areas.

Underlining India’s displeasure at China’s patrolling, the statement following last year’s talks stressed that “peace and tranquility on the border is the basis for the continued expansion of India-China relations.” Monday’s statement, however, did not include that reference.

Ms. Hua said China’s troops were “carrying out routine patrolling activities on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control”. She added that border areas had “maintained peace and tranquility and our channels and mechanisms on handling border related affairs are very effective and very smooth”.

Both sides are yet to agree on where the disputed LAC runs, with both sides patrolling up to their respective — and overlapping — claim lines. Last year, both sides signed a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) to formalise rules of patrolling and prevent a recurrence of stand-offs such as the one that occurred at Depsang, where Chinese troops broke from the normal patrolling practice by pitching a tent in disputed territory.

Since then, both sides have said the situation along the border had improved. Ms. Hua on Tuesday described the past year as “a year of harvest” for ties, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on two occasions, and both Prime Ministers exchanging visits in the same year for the first time since 1954.

“Under such conditions,” she said, “we hope to maintain sound momentum of development of bilateral relations.”