GUWAHATI: China is likely to hand over the five youths from Arunachal Pradesh to Indian authorities on Saturday, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted on Friday.
He wrote: “The Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has confirmed to Indian Army that it would hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location”.
The Chinese PLA has confirmed to Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location. https://t.co/UaM9IIZl56— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) September 11, 2020
It was Rijiju who first broke the news about the PLA's confirmation that the youths were found on the Chinese side of the Sino-Indian border.
“China’s PLA has responded to the hotline message sent by Indian Army. They have confirmed that the missing youths from Arunachal Pradesh have been found by their side. Further modalities to hand over the persons to our authority are being worked out,” he had then tweeted.
Rijiju, the Union sports minister, hails from Arunachal Pradesh.
Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri – all of them teenagers hailing from Arunachal’s Upper Subansiri district – had been reported missing since they went out for hunting at Tungdara Mountain or Sera-7 near the LAC on September 2.
The incident came to light when two other villagers, who had gone out along with the five people but managed to escape, narrated the incident of “abduction by the PLA” before locals.
According to Arunachal Police, such incidents do occur in that part of the state. The locals often venture out in the jungle for hunting, a common practice, and they move into the Chinese territory inadvertently.
The last such incident was reported in March. One person was “captured” by the PLA and following talks at the army level between both countries, he was released about a month later.
On Monday, China brushed off concerns over the whereabouts of the five youths and needled India, saying it has never recognized Arunachal Pradesh which it claims is part of south Tibet.
"China's position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China's Xizang (Tibet) ), is consistent and clear," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing, adding the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh".
"I'm not aware of the situation you mentioned," the spokesperson said when asked about any updates about the missing Indian nationals.
The development comes at a time when the Indian Army has enhanced its deployment along the 3,400 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in view of the tense border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
In March, a 21-year-old man was abducted by the PLA from Asapila sector near the McMahon line. While his two friends managed to escape, Togley Sinkam was taken away at gunpoint, his family had said.
After 19 days in captivity, the youth was released by the Chinese Army.
On September 2, the Indian Army provided food, warm clothes, and medical assistance to three Chinese citizens who had lost their way in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 17,500 feet in a border area in North Sikkim.
The Indian Army personnel deployed in the area also guided the Chinese citizens, including a woman, to return to the Chinese side and reach their destination.
(With agency inputs)