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India says Reported Chinese Border Incursions No Cause for Alarm

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Indian officials are denying there is any cause for alarm over reported recent incursions by Chinese forces across their disputed border.  But some in India are calling for increased vigilance. 

For weeks, India's cable-TV news channels and leading newspapers have been reporting about provocative moves by Chinese troops into India-controlled territory.

The two countries share a 3,500-kilometer frontier. Much of the border is disputed and not marked.

Indian government officials have sought to deny or play down recent reported incidents.  Some analysts here accuse their own Foreign Ministry of being apologists for repeated Chinese incursions and say the Indian side of the border needs to be better protected.

After a report emerged in mainstream media here that two officers of the India-Tibet Border Police had recently been shot by their Chinese counterparts at the border in northern Sikkim, India's External Affairs Ministry reacted, calling the story "factually incorrect."  It did not elaborate.

Minister of State for External Affairs, Sashi Tharoor, says there is no reason for alarm amid the surge of reports of incursions in several Indian states. 

"We do not agree on the correct line.  So occasionally, such incidents do occur.  I have to say they have been occurring for many years, even occurring with great frequency.  They do not always get reported by the media.  But nor should they be seen as part of a new atmosphere of hostility or problems, because there are not such problems," said Tharoor.

The state minister says both governments are maintaining positive discussions on these and other issues.

"We are in close contact with the Chinese.  We have dialog with them in Delhi, as well as in Beijing.  We speak about a number of issues.  And our relationship is much larger than the border question," said Tharoor.

But the leaders of several states are calling for increased resources to patrol the disputed border.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister R.P. Nishank, wants a new, special force constituted.

Nishank, speaking to reporters in Dehradun, says just as India created a new coastal security force, a special state-governed contingent is needed for the Himalayan region.

The top state official says he is especially worried that migrants coming across the rugged border from Tibet will move into vacant villages, posing a major security threat to India.

India media reports say, in recent months Chinese troops and helicopters have deliberately moved across the so-called Line of Actual Control.  Ground troops have left behind food wrappers and spray-painted rocks with Chinese characters.

The territorial dispute provoked a 1962 invasion by the Chinese, who captured Indian territory, which is still held by China.  The Chinese still claim as "Southern Tibet" most of Arunachal Pradesh, which India made a state in 1986, despite strong Chinese opposition.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is planning a November visit to a strategic border monastery at Tawang in the state.  China's Foreign Ministry has already voiced objection to the trip.  


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.
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