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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

Asia

India says it will defend border with China after standoff ahead of Xi visit

Reuters | Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

China's President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan arriving at Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka on Sept 16, ahead of a trip to India on Wednesday where he will discuss the border dispute between China and India with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

NEW DELHI - India said on Tuesday it would firmly defend its 3,500-km- (2,200- mile-) long border with China after domestic media reported a new face-off on the disputed frontier, just days ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping.

More than 200 soldiers of the People's Liberation Army crossed into what India considers its territory in Ladakh in the western Himalayas last week, and used cranes, bulldozers and a Hummer vehicle to build a 2-km (1.2-mile) road within it, the Hindustan Times said.

Indian soldiers challenged the Chinese troops and asked them to withdraw, the newspaper said.

Then on the night of September 10, soldiers demolished a temporary track built by Chinese forces.

There was no immediate comment by India's defence ministry.

Both China and India are trying to put a positive spin on Xi's first summit meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the Indian leader took office in May. He arrives on Wednesday after touring the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The two countries are expected to ramp up commercial ties and open the way for Chinese investment in Indian infrastructure, including railways, but the contested border remains a stumbling block to better political ties.

Both lay claim to vast tracts of territory and after two decades of talks are no closer to a resolution of a border dispute over which they went to war in 1962.

They have not even been able to agree on the Line of Actual Control where the two armies are deployed, leading to frequent reports of border violations.

"Let me assure you that our brave sentinels on the border will address any issue that happens on the border," said foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

"We are confident that our borders are in safe hands."

Modi and Xi will discuss the border dispute this week, he added.

India has reported a jump in border violations in the past two years that military experts say is a sign of greater Chinese assertiveness on the frontier. The government itself has sought to play down the incursions.

The number of Chinese infringements had reached 334 by August, the government told parliament last month.

The corresponding figure in 2013 was 411, while in 2012 it was 426, in 2011 it was 213, and in 2010 it stood at 228.

China denies intruding into Indian territory.

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