Drone from India ‘crashed in China’

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BEIJING (AFP) – China lodged an official protest with India yesterday after charging that an Indian drone had “invaded” its airspace before crashing, months after the two sides ended a tense border standoff.

Beijing said the incident occurred “recently” at the border separating India’s northeastern Sikkim state and China’s Tibet region, but it did not say exactly where and when.

India’s army said the unmanned aerial vehicle was on a “regular training mission” when ground control lost contact with it “due to some technical problem” and it crossed over the demarcation line.

The Chinese foreign ministry urged India to “stop the activities” of drones near the border after the UAV “invaded” its airspace.

“The action of the Indian side violated China’s territory and is not conducive to the peace and tranquility of the border area,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “China is dissatisfied with this and lodged solemn representations with the Indian side,” he added, referring to the official diplomatic protest.

A Chinese army official said earlier that border troops “took a professional and responsible attitude” and carried out identification verification of the device.

“We will earnestly fulfil our mission of duty and firmly defend the sovereignty and security of our country,” the deputy director of the Chinese army’s western theatre combat bureau, Zhang Shuili, said.

The Indian army said the country’s border security personnel “immediately alerted” their Chinese counterparts to locate the UAV.

“The exact cause of the incident is under investigation,” Indian army spokesman Col Aman Anand said in a statement. “The matter is being dealt with in accordance with the established protocols through institutional mechanisms to deal with situations along the India-China border areas.”

The drone incident follows a summer standoff in a Himalayan area where Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan meet. In August, the two nations pulled back their troops to resolve the tense deadlock over the area, which is claimed by both China and Bhutan, an ally of India.

The dispute began in mid-June after Chinese troops started building a road on the Doklam plateau, known as Donglang in Chinese.

India has an army base nearby and moved soldiers into the flashpoint zone to halt the work, prompting Beijing to accuse it of trespassing on Chinese soil.

After both sides withdrew, India’s army chief said in September that his country could not afford to be complacent and must be prepared for war.

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