India: Navy send warning as they launch missile on test ship
Chinese officials said the crews of two Indian vessels had been caught up in the country’s tight coronavirus restrictions but defence analysts fear they have being targeted by Beijing as part of a simmering border feud between the nuclear-armed Asian neighbours.
If such incidents increase, then we can say China is retaliating
Prof Srikanth Kondapalli
Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said 23 Indian crew members were aboard the MV Jag Anand which has been anchored off the port of Jingtang in China’s Hebei province since June 13.
He said a further 16 Indian nationals were on another vessel, the MV Anastasia, which has been waiting to unload its cargo at the harbour in Caofeidian since September 20.
Mr Srivastava said the Indian government was in “regular touch” with China to ensure the humanitarian needs of the stranded Indian citizens were being met.
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He said: “Our embassy is in touch with the Chinese authorities.
“The Chinese authorities have conveyed that on account of various COVID-19-related restrictions imposed by the local authorities, crew change is not being permitted from these ports.”
But experts suggested the men could have been deliberately left stranded by the Chinese in amid simmering tensions sparked by a collapse in relations between the two nations.
Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Al Jazeera: “The current border stand-off between the two countries could potentially be a factor as a mild form of retaliation.”
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Prof Kondapalli said there was nothing unusual about sailors being stranded due to various factors, But he warned: “If such incidents increase, then we can say China is retaliating”.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have been locked in a bitter military stand-off in the Himalayan region of Ladakh for almost eight months.
The stand-off began with minor skirmishes in April and boiled over in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in brutal hand-to-hand clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in June.
The violence sparked a series escalation with both sides sending thousands of troops to the disputed border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said relations between India and China were at the “most difficult phase” in decades.
He said: “We are today probably at the most difficult phase of our relationship with China in the last 30 to 40 years or you could argue even more.
“The relationship this year has been very significantly damaged.
“Now for some reason, for which the Chinese have to date given us five differing explanations, the Chinese have violated it.
“Naturally the relationship would be profoundly disturbed by this.”
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Senior Indian military commander admitted trust with China had “evaporated” because of the increased tensions in the volatile Himalayan border region.
Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan said: “I’d like to say there’ve been no major intrusions or face-offs in Eastern Command area since friction in Ladakh.
“After the Galwan incident, mutual trust on the LAC between us and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army evaporated and will take time to stabilise.”
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