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Khurshid to visit China on May 9, third flag meet likely on Friday

Khurshid to visit China on May 9, third flag meet likely on Friday

New Delhi: External affairs minister Salman Khurshid said Thursday he would visit China on May 9 amid high tensions between the neighbours due to a flare-up at their disputed border.

"I believe we have a mutual interest and we should not destroy years of contribution we have put together," he told reporters on the sidelines of a business event.

"I think it is a good thing that we are having a dialogue."

It was unclear if the trip was part of scheduled preparations for a visit by the newly installed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India next month, but it comes at a time of rising friction between the neighbours.

In a bid to end the deadlock diplomatically and get Chinese premier Li Keqiang to visit India, Khurshid will make a preparatory visit to Beijing next month.

India has requested for a third flag meeting, the date of which would be communicated by Beijing earliest by Thursday. It will most likely be on Friday.

A Chinese helicopter on Wednesday brazenly flew over an Indian military base in Ladakh’s Chumar area, worsening the border impasse.

This comes a day after the failed flag meeting in which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers hinted to their Indian counterparts that the current face-off at Ladakh’s Depsang Plains could be resolved if road construction and military activity in Chumar was stopped.

Chumar, close to the Himachal Pradesh border, is a day's mountainous drive from Depsang.

It is evident from the two flag meetings that PLA is totally opposed to India beefing up its defences along the Line of Actual Control.

Top government sources said that face-off between Indian and Chinese troops entered the 10th day with both sides pitching tents only in the night to take shelter from the elements.

On Wednesday morning, a PLA helicopter conducted reconnaissance between the old and new patrol bases in the Chumar sector as well as the track junction area between Chushul and Demchok.

Incidentally, it is at Demchok that the Chinese have built a huge observation post to monitor the Indian Army's activities.

Sources said in the first flag meeting on April 18, the PLA said they had established a new post, way inside perceived Indian territory in Depsang plain as they could not monitor increased Indian military activity in the Daulet Beg Oldi sector.

This was in spite of the fact that the Indian Army had constructed no new local post. It had just added to its defensive capability in its battalion headquarters.

The PLA also raked up the issue of Indian Army bunkers at Fukche, beyond Chushul, only to be told that the work had already been halted.

In the flag meeting on Tuesday, the PLA representative raised the issue about construction in Chumar and, in Indian assessment, indicated that a stop to activity in this contested area would end the face-off.

Chumar has been always disputed by the PLA and was a site of a face-off at Old Patrol Base in 2008 and another last year.

China had opposed road construction by Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council in Chumar as a result of which the project is going at a snail's pace.


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