Pangong Tso Incident Not Linked to Other 'Happenings': Says External Affairs Ministry

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also claimed that China has not shared any hydrological data with India this year.

New Delhi: India on Friday said that the border incident at Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh on August 15 should not be linked to other “happenings”, pointing to the Doklam standoff, even as it revealed that China has not passed this year’s hydrological data as per agreement.

“Today, I can confirm that there was an incident at Pangong Tso on August 15. This was subsequently discussed by the local army commanders of the two sides. We feel that such incidents are not in the interests of either side. We should maintain peace and tranquillity,” said Ministry of External Affairs  spokesperson Raveesh Kumar at the weekly briefing.

However, he did not confirm that there had been scuffle and stone-pelting between the soldiers of the two countries, as reported by the Indian media. “I have not confirmed stone pelting or use of rods, just said there was an incident”.

When asked if the face-off at Pangong Tso reflected the state of tension along the line of actual control in light of the stand-off at Bhutan’s Doklam region, the ministry spokesperson demurred. He also did not answer questions on the mobilisation of Indian troops at the border.

“Again, I have to refer to my earlier statement. I have mentioned to you about that incident at Pangong Tso. I don’t think it should be linked to anything else happening elsewhere. I would not like to touch upon the situation, on how troops are being mobilised”, he said.

More than two months have passed since the stand-off between India and China at Bhutan’s Doklam plateau began after Chinese soldiers tried to build a road in the region claimed by the small Himalayan nation.

The barbs through the Chinese media have continued, with the release of a video by the state-run news agency eliciting outrage at the lack of sensitivity.

The Indian government, however, did not want to comment on the video – which itself was a condemnation by implication. “I don’t want to dignify this video with a comment,” said Kumar.

The ministry spokesperson revealed that this year, China has not shared hydrological data with India under the expert-level mechanism on trans-border rivers.

Under the implementation plan, China is supposed to provide hydrological data of the Brahmaputra river (Yarlung Zangbu) in the monsoon season. The Chinese were supposed to share data from three hydrological stations, three times daily between May 15 and October 15.

“At periodic levels, China is expected to share data with us. As per my knowledge, this year, China hasn’t shared any data,” Kumar said.

Assam is currently reeling under devastating floods which have left 133 dead so far. While sharing of hydrological data of the Brahmaputra river on the upper reaches is crucial, Kumar said that it would be “premature to link the floods” with the lack of preparedness by India in meeting the devastation.

Earlier in the day, a Vietnamese media outlet had cited the Vietnamese foreign ministry as saying that the south-east Asian nation had agreed to buy Brahmos missile from India. If this had been confirmed, it would have been a major step-up in defence ties – and would have also angered Vietnam’s giant northern neighbour.

However, the official transcript of the briefing of the Vietnamese foreign ministry made no mention of any confirmation of the sale of the missile.

This was also pointed out by the ministry spokesperson, when asked about the alleged transaction.

Kumar noted that “the (Vietnam foreign) ministry has already said that the news is incorrect”.

“They had clarified that their spokesperson did not confirm the sale of Brahmos but only referred to defence and strategic cooperation between the two countries,” he stated.

Earlier in the day, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson warned that the Japanese ambassador should “not wag his tongue too freely”, as per a Xinhua report. This was in response to an interview carried by the Hindustan Times, in which the Japanese envoy to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, said that Doklam is disputed territory between China and Bhutan and that there should no forcible change in the status-quo.

When asked about the senior Japanese diplomat’s remarks, the Indian spokesperson said, “his words speak for themselves”.