PLA hands teen to Indian army after he went missing near disputed territory

Indian soldiers guard a highway leading to the Ladakh region. Photo: DPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Jan 27, 2022, SCMP. The Chinese military has said it handed back an Indian teenager held near the disputed Himalayan border, as a military stand-off between the two Asian powers continues, South China Morning Post reported.

“Recently, Chinese border guards were patrolling the territory of China’s Medog county when they found an Indian man who had illegally entered Chinese territory, and carried out routine questioning and quarantine observation … and provided humanitarian relief,” said Long Shaohua, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Command, in a brief statement on Thursday, without giving further details.

The handover came after the Indian military asked for help from the Chinese side through their border hotline and the two sides had maintained “close negotiations” since then, according to the statement.

“We urge the Indian side to strictly implement the bilateral agreement, strengthen personnel control and effectively maintain normal order in the border area,” Long said.

India’s defence ministry said last Thursday a 17-year-old Indian youth, identified as Miram Taron, was “reportedly abducted” by Chinese forces after going missing on January 18 from a border village in Arunachal Pradesh, known in China as Zangnan or “South Tibet”.

Beijing denied the accusation and when asked during a press conference last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he did not have information about the incident but reiterated China’s claim to the 60,000 sq km (23,200 square mile) region.

“The People’s Liberation Army of China controls the border in accordance with the law and combats illegal entry and exit activities,” Zhao said at the time.

India’s Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, who is a lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh, tweeted on Thursday that the PLA had delivered the youth to the Indian Army.

“The Chinese PLA has handed over the young boy from Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Miram Taron, to Indian Army. Due procedures are being followed, including the medical examination,” he wrote.

Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a tense stand-off since a deadly clash in the Galwan Valley, in the disputed western Himalayan border region near Tibet, in 2020. The two militaries have held 14 rounds of talks since then, though troops have completely disengaged at some friction points.

The prolonged stand-off has raised fears of an escalation in military conflict between Asia’s two nuclear-armed neighbours.

On Thursday, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian tried to strike an optimistic note about the latest talks held earlier this month, which he said were “positive and constructive”.

No breakthrough was made in those talks but according to a joint statement released afterwards, the two sides agreed to “resolve the rest of the problems as soon as possible” while taking necessary measures to ensure the border’s stability over winter. They agreed to maintain communications through military and diplomatic channels.

Wu also hit out at recent comments by US White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Asked about the China-India border dispute earlier this month, Psaki had said China’s behaviour “can be destabilising” for the region and that the US was “concerned by China’s attempt to intimidate its neighbours”.

Defence spokesman Wu told reporters that the border dispute was a matter for China and India and no third party should be involved.

“Some people in the US like to use the word ‘coercion’, but they do not know that the US is the originator and mastermind of ‘coercive diplomacy’,” he said.

“China … is firmly opposed to the US engaging in ‘coercive diplomacy’ with other countries and China will continue to work together with the Indian side to properly address the border issue through negotiations and consultations.”

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