New Delhi: Senior officers of the Indian and Chinese armies held a flag meeting in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday following an incursion by troops of the Peoples Liberation Army. India hoped that the issue would be resolved peacefully as has happened with such incidents in the past.
The brigadier-level meeting was held at Daulat Beg Oldie, the highest airstrip in the world at 5,100 metres that India reactivated in 2008, sources said.
According to reports, Chinese troops intruded 10 km into Indian territory in the vicinity of Daulat Beg Oldie and set up a tented post there. The Indian Army is also reported to have moved in more troops in the region. Beijing has denied any incursion across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is a notional line.
Flag meetings are a mechanism to deal with emergent situations. They supplement the border personnel meetings that are held twice a year at various points along the India-China border.
"Overall, India-China border area continues to remain peaceful. Similar incidents in the past have been resolved peacefully and we hope to resolve this incident too peacefully," external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.
He said India believed that the ongoing incident could be handled on the basis of agreements between the two countries and the mechanisms established under them.
"The ongoing incident refers to the western sector of the India-China boundary and we see this as a face to face situation between border personnel of two sides due to differences on their alignment of the Line of Actual Control," he said.
"We therefore asked the Chinese side to maintain status quo in this sector and by this we mean status quo prior to this incident," he said.
Explaining the technicalities, Akbaruddin said: "Now the term face to face situation is not something that we have conjured up; it is something that is referred to in the 2005 protocol to the implementation of CBMs (confidence building measures) in the military field along the LAC."
According to him, article 4 of the protocol says that if the border personnel of the two sides come to a face to face situation on the alignment of the LAC, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation.
"And then there are a whole listing of procedures that need to be followed and when we say face to face this is what we are referring to," he said.
"The ongoing incident is a localised event. This a sector in which there are differing perceptions of LAC and that is why we have since 1996 been maintaining that there is a need for both sides to work together in clarifying and confirming the LAC."
Listing out steps taken by India after the incident was reported April 15, Akbaruddin said: "This came to note on April 15 and April 16. Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary East Asia, who chairs the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs spoke to his counterpart who is director general border affairs of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs."
"Subsequently on April 18, there was a flag meeting. Following that on April 18, the foreign secretary expressed the concerns of the government of India to the ambassador of China in Delhi," he said.