India detains Chinese soldier who strayed across disputed border

Indian soldiers disembarking from a military transport plane at a forward airbase in Leh, in the Ladakh region, last month.
Indian soldiers disembarking from a military transport plane at a forward airbase in Leh, in the Ladakh region, last month.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • The Indian army yesterday said it had captured a Chinese soldier after he strayed across a contested border in the western Himalayan region where both countries have amassed thousands of troops after a deadly clash in June.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier was apprehended in the Demchok area of eastern Ladakh, and would be returned after the completion of formalities, the Indian army said.

"The PLA soldier has been provided medical assistance including oxygen, food and warm clothes to protect him from the vagaries of extreme altitude and harsh climatic conditions."

The nuclear-armed neighbours have been locked in a months-long border confrontation in the Ladakh region, with troops killing one another in hand-to-hand combat and firing shots in the air.

Both sides have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks, but have made little headway.

There was no immediate comment from China on the capture of its soldier, but the editor-in-chief of state-backed Global Times tweeted that the matter was being resolved.

"Based on what I know, one Chinese soldier was detained by Indian side, very likely because of getting lost," Mr Hu Xijin wrote.

"Indian side has a positive attitude. The soldier will be returned to China. The issue should not cause new tensions in the border area."

As the tensions in Ladakh continue with no sign of dissolution, India has bought high-altitude warfare kits from the United States on an urgent basis, reports say, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Indian army used an agreement that allows the two militaries to provide logistical assistance to each other, such as buying fuel and spare parts for equipment, for the transaction, said the officials who asked not to be identified.

The move may prove significant as the area is known for its bone-chilling temperatures, and war in such environments is often fraught with danger. With winter approaching, the troops in Ladakh face fighting at 4,572m, with temperatures dropping to -30 deg C.

New Delhi, in a sharp assertion last Thursday, said China has no right to comment on its internal matters, after Beijing's remarks following India's recent opening of 44 bridges in border areas.

"The Union Territories of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir have been, are and will remain an integral part of India," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.

"Our position on Arunachal Pradesh has also been made clear several times. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. This fact has also been clearly conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level."

China had earlier said it "does not recognise the Ladakh Union Territory" and opposes infrastructure building by India in the region.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had also called border infrastructure development "the root cause of the tension between the two sides" and said neither side should take action that might escalate tension.

REUTERS, THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2020, with the headline 'India detains Chinese soldier who strayed across disputed border'. Subscribe