India on Wednesday released the Chinese soldier who had strayed across the Line of Actual Control in the Demchok sector of eastern Ladakh two days ago, before military commanders of the two countries meet for the eighth round of talks to discuss disengagement from multiple friction points.
Sources in the Indian Army said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldier was handed over at the Chushul-Moldo meeting point after the completion of all formalities as per established protocols.
The soldier, a corporal, had inadvertently crossed over on Monday morning while helping local herdsmen search for a missing yak, Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili of the People’s Liberation Army, West Theatre Command, had said that night.
“The soldier was provided medical assistance, including oxygen, as well as food and warm clothes, to protect him from the effects of the extreme altitude and the harsh climate. During questioning, the army could not find any espionage angle,” said an Indian Army official.
He, however, declined to comment when asked whether the yak had been found.
The Chinese tabloid Global Times, which functions under the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper, on Wednesday confirmed the release of the Chinese soldier “who went missing while helping herdsmen find a yak near China-India border”.
“The Indian Army’s decision to return the Chinese soldier is viewed as a positive sign ahead of the eighth round of China-India commander-level talks this week. However, many believe that India should show more sincerity in the upcoming talks and less provocative moves,” the Global Times said.
The seventh round of military talks between the two armies on October 10 had failed to achieve a breakthrough on the border standoff, triggering apprehensions that the Ladakh frontier could now become a permanently contested militarised zone akin to Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said Beijing continued to resist New Delhi’s demand for disengagement and de-escalation of troops from multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh along the LAC.
As many as 18 rounds of military and diplomatic talks have taken place since May but nothing much has changed on the ground.