Arunachal Pradesh: 5 youths who strayed across Indo-China border return


Itanagar: Five youths, who went missing from Arunachal Pradesh last week, were returned to Indian authorities by China’s People Liberation Army (PLA) on Saturday, the Indian Army confirmed.

All the individuals were handed over to the Indian side at Kibitu after formalities were completed, and sent to quarantine for 14-days as per the coronavirus protocol, the Indian Army added.

“The Indian Army took over all five individuals at Kibitu on 12 September, 2020, after completing all the formalities. Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per Covid-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members,” a statement released by the Army read.

Besides this, it also recalled previous instances wherein youths have inadvertently strayed to the other side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and safely returned.

On Tuesday, the Army had received a communication from China about the whereabouts of the five youths who went missing from Upper Subansiri district. The PLA had conveyed that the youths were found by them across the Sino-Indian border.

Government officials and local residents told The Indian Express it was common for people to visit interior parts of forests along the border for livelihood purposes. Since the Line of Actual Control is not clearly demarcated in many places, they were caught by PLA soldiers, they said.

The communication from PLA had been announced by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh.

“The Chinese PLA has confirmed to the Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location,” he announced on Friday.

However, Tapir Gao, MP from East Arunachal, had cited local reports to allege the five were “abducted” by the PLA. On Monday, China brushed off concerns over the whereabouts of the five youths and needled India, saying it has never recognised Arunachal Pradesh which it claims is part of south Tibet.

“China’s position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China’s Xizang (Tibet) ), is consistent and clear,” PTI quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian as saying at a media briefing in Beijing. Lijian said the Chinese government had never recognised “Arunachal Pradesh”.

“I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned,” the spokesperson said when asked about any updates about the missing Indian nationals.

The development also came amid a border standoff along the LAC. After two-and-half hours of bilateral talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, the two sides on Thursday reached a five-point agreement to disengage and de-escalate the situation along the border. (PTI)