China on Thursday accused India of infringing on its territorial sovereignty after an Indian drone “invaded” Chinese airspace, a senior military official said.
No details were given about when the incident happened, or what kind of drone it was, except that it crashed.
“We strongly express our opposition,” Zhang Shuili, deputy head of the military’s Western Theatre Command combat bureau, was quoted as saying by Xinhua. “China’s border forces acted professionally and responsibly, and examined the equipment.”
The statement came ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to India on Monday.
Tension between China and India has been simmering for months. Earlier this year, troops from the two countries were locked in a 72-day stand-off in the disputed Doklam plateau, a region that lies on the border between the state of Sikkim in India, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and Tibet’s Chumbi Valley.
The Indian army said the drone was on a regular training mission inside “Indian territory” but had lost contact with ground control due to a technical problem and crossed over the line of control.
The Indian army said it immediately alerted its Chinese counterparts to find the drone.
“The exact cause of the incident is under investigation. The matter is being dealt with in accordance with the established protocols through institutional mechanisms to deal with situations along the India-China border,” the army said in a statement.
Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said last week that Doklam was China’s territory and that the Chinese military had the right to deploy troops there.
Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming said the altitude of that region of the Himalayas was over 4,000 metres, which was close to the Indian drone’s flying ceiling.
“Flying near its limit increased the chance of mechanical or electronic failure. Additionally, the weather conditions there in December are characterised by extreme low temperatures, strong winds and heavy snow,” he said. “It is not surprising the drone crashed.”
Zhou said it was unlikely to have been shot down by the Chinese side because the weather made it difficult for Chinese air defence forces to respond.
He said the flight might have been a mission to monitor the Chinese troops stationed there “as India has no satellite surveillance system and it would be even more risky to send a manned vehicle”.
Zhou said drone flyovers by both sides on the border were normal, and that China and India tended to show restraint unless something especially provocative happened.
Growing Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean has pushed New Delhi to purchase more drones from the United States. US President Donald Trump authorised the sale of two dozen drones to India in June, at an estimated cost of US$3 billion.
The “Guardian” drones help track the movement of Chinese warships in the ocean, experts said.
This article Indian drone crashes after entering Chinese airspace first appeared on South China Morning Post