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India releases Chinese soldier detained at tense border

An Indian Air Force Hercules military transport plane prepares to land at an airbase in Leh, in Ladakh, bordering China, on September 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

China says India has released a Chinese soldier who had been detained along their disputed Himalayan border, where the two sides have been locked in a tense standoff in recent months.

The soldier, identified as Corporal Wang Ya Long, was handed over early on Wednesday, the Chinese military said in a statement.

India had said on Monday that it had “apprehended” a Chinese soldier in the harsh mountainous area of Ladakh, adding, however, that he would be released after the “completion of formalities.”

The Chinese Defense Ministry said late on Monday that the soldier had lost his way after being asked by local herders to search for missing yaks. The ministry also called for the soldier’s release as soon as possible to “maintain peace and tranquility” on the border.

Wang was the first Chinese soldier detained by the Indian military since tensions escalated this year.

The relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbors has deteriorated since a clash in the Ladakh region on June 15 in which 20 Indian troops were killed. There were no confirmed reports of Chinese casualties in the fighting, which took place in the Galwan Valley, a precipitous and rocky border area that lies between China’s Tibet and India’s Ladakh regions.

It was the first such deadly clash at the disputed border in the western Himalayas since 1967.

India accused Beijing of having “pre-meditated and planned” the fighting, but China said Indian troops had violated a military agreement and attacked its troops in the Galwan Valley.

The two countries have moved tens of thousands of troops and weapons into the high-altitude region since then.

Back in September, the two sides reached a five-point consensus in which they agreed that the current border situation was in neither side’s interest and that troops from both sides should quickly disengage in order to ease tensions.

The two sides have held several rounds of talks since then and reduced troop numbers in the valley, while still deploying reinforcements to elsewhere in the region.

The two Asian powerhouses have been engaged in a protracted dispute over the Line of Actual Control frontier that divides their long joint border. They fought a brief war over the border back in 1962.

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