China on Thursday said an Indian drone "invaded" its airspace and crashed in its territory in the Sikkim section of the border where the two countries were locked in a 73-day military stand-off. New Delhi said the drone crossed the border by mistake, and China had been informed about it.
The claim was first made by Zhang Shuili, deputy head of the combat bureau of Chinas' Western Theater Command's joint staff department, who said an Indian UAV had recently intruded into China's airspace and crashed. Later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it has lodged a protest with India over the issue and warned New Delhi not to use such devices near the border area any more.
New Delhi meanwhile said that China had been informed that the drone, which was on a regular mission inside Indian territory, lost contact with the ground control and crossed the Line of Actual Control. Sources said India will, through diplomatic channels, seek its return.
The incident took place in the Sikkim sector, where the two countries were engaged in a stand-off from June 16 to August 28, close to the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction. The Indian Army had objected to road building by China's PLA in Doklam, which is also claimed by Bhutan.
The exact location of the area where the drone crashed or date of the incident was however not revealed by either India or China.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: "Recently an Indian unmanned aircraft invaded China's airspace and crashed in the Sikkim section of China-India border... The Chinese border troops took professional and responsible attitude and verified the device."
He said the the Sikkim section of China-India border has been delimited and Chinese side along the borderline is China's territory.
"The action of the Indian side violated China's sovereignty and it's not conducive to the peace and tranquility in the border area. China is dissatisfied with this and lodged a solemn representation with the Indian side.
"China asked the Indian side to stop the activities of the devices near the border and work with China to maintain peace and tranquility of the border areas," Geng added.
Zhang said that Chinese border troops "have conducted identification and verification over the vehicle".
"India's move has infringed upon China's territorial sovereignty and we are strongly dissatisfied with and opposed to this. We will ... defend China's national sovereignty and security resolutely," he said.
India however said that the Chinese side was informed when the drone strayed in their territory.
Sources said the drone was an Israeli Heron UAV, and it crashed on the Chinese side of the border across north Sikkim. The source said the drone had gone missing earlier this week, but the exact date of the incident was not revealed.
The Defence Ministry statement meanwhile said UAV was on a regular training mission inside Indian territory when it lost contact with the ground control due to some technical problem and crossed over the LAC.
"As per standard protocol, the Indian border security personnel immediately alerted their Chinese counterparts to locate the UAV," the statement said.
It said the Chinese side got back with its location details.
"The exact cause of the incident is under investigation. The matter is being dealt with in accordance with the established protocol through institutional mechanisms to deal with situations along the India-China border areas," the statement added.
The strong reaction from China also comes days ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to India for the Russia, India and China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting. Wang will arrive in India on December 10.
Asked if the incident will have a negative impact on the bilateral meet, Geng said: "I think Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit's goal is to attend the foreign ministers' meeting."
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