China declines to give timeline for troop pullout
China on Thursday indicated that its army camp 19 km inside Indian territory in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, was there for the long term, even as India said it would continue to explore diplomatic options to resolve the issue with its neighbour.
The Indian Army too assessed that the Chinese soldiers would stay put in Debsang Bulge for more time, since they have camped there for over a fortnight and have begun getting replenishment through the land route. However, it was hoping that the bilateral talks at various levels would yield results at the earliest and the Chinese soldiers would dismantle their tents and return to their pre-April 15 position.
Meanwhile, asked if External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s trip to China on May 9, ahead of Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s trip to New Delhi this month, will happen on schedule, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “The minister himself has said that he intends to go to Beijing.”
Earlier, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the information regarding Khurshid’s Beijing visit will be “released in due course”, which is usually done a day or two ahead of the event itself.
Akbaruddin told a regular media briefing that the two nations needed “time and space” to work through the issue of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) incursion in Ladakh, which he described as “limited” in its geographical scope. “The objective of our diplomatic contact has been that we return to status quo as it was... prior to April 15. We require time and space to work this through and diplomatic channels are active,” Akbaruddin said.
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the issue that sparked new tension in its ties with India “will be properly resolved soon through negotiations”, a sentiment shared by the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.
“I want to reiterate that Chinese troops carry out normal patrols on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China,” Hua said when asked how long its troopers intended to camp at Daulat Beg Oldi sector, where they have already pitched five tents. “China and India are discussing for a complete and appropriate settlement of the issue,” she said, referring to the three Brigadier-level flag meetings that the PLA and the Indian Army have held at Ladakh, as well as the border mechanism the two countries agreed to last year to address specific issues.
Asked whether China objected to any bunkers and trenches constructed by Indian troops, Hua said, “China is firmly opposed to any action that crosses the LAC. China believes that peace and tranquility of border areas serve the common interests of both the sides.”
Army chief General Bikram Singh had on Wednesday briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on the situation in Ladakh and analysed options available with the government in dealing with the issue.