The Chinese military has claimed that an Indian drone invaded China’s airspace before it crash-landed near a disputed border region.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua carried a report on Thursday in which Zhang Shuili, deputy head of the combat bureau of the Western Theater Command's joint staff department, said: "India's move has infringed upon China's territorial sovereignty, and we are strongly dissatisfied with and opposed to this."
The claims do not include details about the timing or specific location of the incident. The department's jurisdiction includes areas on China's border with India and Bhutan.
Shuili added: "We will fulfill our mission and responsibility and defend China's national sovereignty and security resolutely." He said that the Indian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) “intruded into China's airspace and crashed recently, and China's border troops have conducted identification and verification over the vehicle.”
The Indian army offered more information about the incident, saying the drone was on a training mission in Indian territory but crossed into Chinese territory due to a technical fault whose exact cause is under investigation.
"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 the LAC [Line of Actual Control] in the Sikkim sector," the Indian military said in a statement quoted in Indian media. The northeastern Indian state of Sikkim borders China via Tibet, as well as Bhutan and Nepal.
Indian soldiers then alerted Chinese authorities and received assistance in locating the drone.
“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,” the Indian military statement added.
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China formally complained about the incident with Indian diplomats, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.
“China asks India to immediately stop its activities of using unmanned aircraft near the border, and to work alongside China to maintain the border area’s peace and tranquility,” Shuang said, quoted in Reuters.
Tensions between the two nuclear-powered Asian countries increased earlier this year around a Himalayan plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China.
The confrontation began in June, when Indian troops obstructed the construction of a Chinese road on the plateau. China claims the area as sovereign territory in light of a 1890 border convention signed between Britain and the Qing dynasty, but it is also the subject of an agreement with Bhutan in which the two countries agreed to maintain the status quo along the unmarked border. India said it acted in consultation with Bhutan's government, as the road construction violated the status quo.
After weeks of escalating tensions, India and China agreed to an “expeditious disengagement” of troops resolving the standoff at the end of August, ahead of a meeting between the countries’ leaders at the BRICS summit hosted in China in early September.
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