The Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Saturday handed over five youths missing from Arunachal Pradesh to the Indian authorities, The Indian Express reported. The five men entered Arunachal Pradesh through the Kibithu border post.

“The Indian Army took over all five individuals at Kibitu on 12 September, 2020, after completing all the formalities,” a statement said. “Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per Covid-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members.”

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

Union minister Kiren Rijiju said the youth were fit and fine. “However, they will be quarantined for a specified period,” he tweeted. “I also thank Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh ji for the concern he had shown.”

The Arunachal Pradesh Police had launched an investigation on September 5 to look into allegations that Chinese soldiers had kidnapped the five villagers from the Upper Subansiri district, situated along the Indo-China border in the state. The five were reportedly taken away by a team of the PLA from a jungle where they were hunting. Rijiju had said on September 6 that the Indian Army had reached out to its Chinese counterpart over the matter.

China had dismissed India’s concern about the five missing civilians. On September 7, Beijing said it does not recognise Arunachal Pradesh to be Indian territory. The country claims the state is part of “South Tibet”.

But the next day, Rijiju tweeted that the People’s Liberation Army had confirmed that the missing youths had been found on China’s side of the border, and said that modalities to hand the persons over were being worked out.

On September 2, the Indian Army had provided food, warm clothes and medical assistance to three Chinese citizens who had lost their way at an altitude of 17,500 feet on the border in North Sikkim, PTI reported. The Indian Army also guided the Chinese back to their side of the border.

India-China tensions

India and China have been locked in a standoff in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake in Ladakh. On September 8, the Indian Army denied that that it had resorted to firing or any other aggressive measures across the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and accused China of blatantly violating bilateral agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres in the region amid de-escalation talks.

The clarification from India came after Beijing on claimed that Indian soldiers fired warning shots in a new confrontation at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh near Pangong Tso lake. As a result, the country said it took “countermeasures to stabilise the situation on the ground”.

On September 1, India had said that China had once again engaged in provocative military manoeuvres along the Line of Actual Control. This 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.

On September 10, India and China agreed on a five-point plan to defuse tensions between the countries and said the current situation in the border areas of Ladakh is not in the interest of either side. The two sides reached the consensus during talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow.