‘Chinese army choppers intruded into Indian space 5 times this year’

The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have told the Union government of at least five aerial intrusions by the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) helicopters this year in the sensitive Depsang sector of East Ladakh and the Barahoti plains inPeoples’ Liberation Army , according to officials familiar with the matter.

Two PLA helicopters entered Indian airspace for between two and 10 minutes in the two sectors and were spotted about six kilometers across the perceived Line of Actual Control (LAC), said a government official who asked not to be named. There were three intrusions in the Depsang bulge, the site of a 21-day face-off between the Indian army and the PLA in April 2013, and two in the Barahoti Plains, he added.

According to reports sent to the government, there have been at least 45 PLA transgressions this year, including the five violations, another official said. Two PLA helicopters entered the Barahoti plains on March 10, there was another aerial intrusion in the area on March 8, and two cho- ppers entered the Depsang area on February 27, the official said.

Maps of western sector have not been exchanged between India and China, but the intrusions in the Barahoti plains are being seen by the Indian security establishment as a cause for concern because maps of the middle sector have been exchanged. “Aerial intrusions have been seen, with the Chinese PLA trying to emphasise its territorial claim. This could also be an ans- wer to Indian posturing since the Army and the ITBP are patrolling the LAC to its defined limits,” said a senior Army commander on condition of anonymity.

Indian ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, told a Hong Kong newspaper last week that India would contest any unilateral changes to the 3,488-km LAC. Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a 73-day standoff in Doklam last year.

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