China accused Indian troops of “crossing the boundary” in the Sikkim sector and put their immediate withdrawal as condition to reopen the Nathu La Pass for Indian pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar.
China watchers here, however, see this as a tactic by Beijing to gain control over a section along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Sikkim that would enable it to link Bhutan with the Tibetan Autonomous Region. China has land-related disputes with India and Bhutan. Beijing has been pushing to establish diplomatic ties with Bhutan, but Thimphu hasn’t shown any keenness towards that.
The incident in Nathu La is a reminiscent of impasse in Chumar in Ladakh in 2013 and 2014 when Chinese troops tried to dismantle infrastructure which gave Indian troopers an advantage in terms of surveillance along the LAC. In 2009, Chinese soldiers had transgressed across LAC in Nathu La. Chinese choppers had also violated airspace in Uttarakhand.
China said it lodged diplomatic protests with India, both in New Delhi and Beijing, alleging that the Indian troops trespassed into Chinese territory in the Sikkim sector. “Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering. We hope the Indian side can work with China in the same direction and immediately withdraw the personnel who have overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing.
Lu said the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage via Nathu La has been called off because of security reasons and linked future visits of pilgrims to India “withdrawing the troops” from the area. “On the upcoming actions, we have to depend on what the Indian side will do. They have to take action to improve the security situation,” he said.
Earlier, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, said: “China urges India to immediately withdraw its border guards that have crossed the boundary and have a thorough investigation of this matter.”
“The Indian border guards crossed the boundary in the Sikkim section of the China-India border and entered the territory of China, and obstructed normal activities of Chinese frontier forces in the Donglang area recently, and the Chinese side has taken counter-measures,” he said in a statement.
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