Chinese soldier who strayed across LAC in Ladakh's Demchok sector released

Indian Army hands over PLA soldier apprehended in eastern Ladakh
A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla. Reuters/File photo

New Delhi/Beijing: The Chinese soldier, who was apprehended by the Indian Army in the Demchok sector of Eastern Ladakh on Monday, has been handed back to China's PLA, ahead of another round of military talks between the two sides on the border standoff.

Government sources in Delhi said Corporal Wang Ya Long was returned to the People's Liberation Army(PLA) on Tuesday night at Chushul-Moldo border point in eastern Ladakh following laid down protocols.

The sources also said the release of the soldier was no indication of any warming up to the Chinese side by the Indian Army ahead of their eighth round of Corps Commander-level talks expected to take place in the next few days.

The Indian Army on Monday had said the Chinese soldier had "strayed" across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Demchok sector.

In Beijing, a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Defence said, "According to the relevant agreement between China and India, the Chinese PLA soldier, who went missing while near the China-India border on Sunday, has been returned to the Chinese border troops by the Indian Army early on the morning of October 21."

The Indian government sources, however, called as "factually incorrect" the claim by the PLA that the corporal had strayed into the Indian side of the LAC while trying to help local herdsmen.

Following the handing over of the PLA soldier to China, Chinese newspaper Global Times reported that the Indian army's decision was viewed as a positive sign ahead of the eighth round of military talks.

The incident came amid a massive deployment of troops by the two armies in the region following the border standoff.

Both Indian and Chinese armies have deployed over 50,000 troops each along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh including in the Demchok sector following escalation of the five-month-long military standoff that began in early May.

The two sides have so far held seven rounds of high-level military talks on the border faceoff. The seventh round of talks was held on October 12.

There was no breakthrough on the disengagement of troops from the friction points so far.

India has all along been maintaining that the onus is on China to carry forward the process of disengagement and de-escalation at the friction points in the mountainous region.

Following the sixth round of military talks, the two sides had announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.

This round was held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.

The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.

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