China on Monday dismissed India’s concern about five missing civilians in Arunachal Pradesh, the Hindustan Times reported. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army had allegedly kidnapped five Indian villagers from Arunachal Pradesh last week.

The Arunachal Pradesh Police had launched an investigation on Saturday to look into allegations that Chinese soldiers had kidnapped the villagers from the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, situated along the Indo-China border in the state. The five were reportedly taken away by a team of the People’s Liberation Army from a jungle where they were hunting. Union minister Kiren Rijiju said on Sunday that the Indian Army had reached out to its Chinese counterpart over the matter.

However, China said on Monday that they do not recognise Arunachal Pradesh to be Indian territory. Beijing claims the state is part of “South Tibet”.

“China’s position on the eastern section of the China and India boundary and China’s southern Tibet is consistent and clear,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing. “We have never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh illegally established on the Chinese territory.” Zhao also expressed ignorance about the fate of the five villagers.

The five missing individuals have been identified as Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri.

Meanwhile, the police in Arunachal Pradesh confirmed that the five men were missing. “I spoke to the family members of the five missing youths, but till date they have not lodged any formal complaint,” Superintendent of Police Upper Subansiri district Taru Gussar told Hindustan Times. “According to a statement by relatives of the young men and the people accompanying them who have come back, they have not seen the abduction themselves. But they assume that these five young men have been abducted by the Chinese.”

Gussar said it would be difficult to confirm whether the episode occurred on the Indian or Chinese side. The police officer added that they were in contact with the Indian Army in the case and that an inquiry was on. “They [Indian Army] are doing their own investigation and the local police are also trying to gather whatever information possible.”

In February, China had “firmly opposed” a visit by Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh to attend a statehood day event. Beijing said the visit had violated its “territorial sovereignty and sabotaged political mutual trust”

India-China tensions

India and China have again become locked in a standoff in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake in Ladakh. On September 1, India said that China had once again engaged in provocative military maneuvers along the Line of Actual Control. The new escalation in border tensions came a day after the Indian Army said its soldiers had thwarted similar movement of the Chinese military in the South Bank area.

The escalation in tensions came over two months after the troops of both the countries clashed on the border on June 15, in Ladakh. Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives and 76 were injured. An unidentified number of Chinese soldiers also died in the clash.