Days ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to New Delhi to attend the Russia-India-China Trilateral meeting, China on Thursday said an Indian drone “intruded” into its airspace and crashed in the Sikkim sector which includes Dokalam, prompting Beijing to lodge a diplomatic protest with India over the violation of its territorial sovereignty.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing, “Recently an Indian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, (UAV) invaded China’s airspace and crashed in the Sikkim section of China-India border.” He said the Chinese border troops took a professional and responsible attitude to verify the device. “I want to point out that the Sikkim section of the China India border has been delimited,” he said, in an apparent reference to the 1890 China-British Treaty. “The matter is being dealt with in accordance with the established protocols through institutional mechanisms to deal with situations along the India- China border areas,” he said. Shuang did not spell out when the incident took place. Asked whether the protest was lodged in Beijing or Delhi, he said he is not aware of the details. “I know that China has lodged solemn representation to the Indian side,” he said.
The Indian Defence Ministry in its reply said, “An Indian UAV, which was on a regular training mission inside the Indian territory lost contact with the ground control due to some technical problem and crossed over (to) the LAC in the Sikkim Sector. As per standard protocol, the Indian border security personnel immediately alerted their Chinese counterparts to locate the UAV. In response, the Chinese side reverted with the location details of the UAV.” Sources said the UAV belonged to the Indian Army.
Beijing often referred to the 1890 Britain-China treaty during the lengthy Dokalam standoff, stating that it has defined the Sikkim section of the boundary with Tibet, therefore the border in that area has been settled. “The action of the Indian side violated China’s sovereignty and it is not conducive to the peace and tranquillity of the border area and China is dissatisfied with this and lodged solemn representation with the Indian side,” Shuang said. In its diplomatic protest to India, “China asked the Indian side to stop the activities of the devices near the border and work with China to maintain peace and tranquillity of the border areas,” he said.
He declined to reveal the details of the drone. He also did not confirm whether it has taken place near the Dokalam where the two countries were locked in a 73-day-long border standoff which ended on August 28.
The standoff ended after Chinese troops stopped building a key road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor. India had objected to the construction highlighting its security concerns. The road was being built by the Chinese troops in the area also claimed by Bhutan.
Asked whether, the drone issue would figure in Wang’s talks with Indian officials when he visits New Delhi, Shuang said the “goal” of the Chinese foreign minister’s visit was to attend the RIC meeting. “When he is in India he will meet with the senior officials of the Indian side. At that time, the two sides will exchange views on China-India relations and other issues of the common concern,” he said.
Wang’s visit to Delhi will be the first visit by a top Chinese official to India after the Dokalam crisis and commencement of the second five-year term for Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It is expected to be followed by the 20th round of India-China boundary talks in New Delhi between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who are the designated Special Representatives.