Five men, who went missing from villages near the border with China earlier this month, have been handed over to India by China’s People’s Liberation Army or PLA, the army said.
After the handover took place in the Chinese territory this morning, the men reached the Indian side and entered Arunachal Pradesh through Kibithu border post in the afternoon.
“Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members,” the army said in a statement.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweeted, saying he is “absolutely glad” to know that the five men have been handed over, and thanked the government and the army.
“The Chinese PLA has confirmed to Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location,” Union Minister Kiren Rijiju had tweeted on Friday.
The five men who had been missing since September 1 were hunters, the army had said in a statement.
Good news #India…
By persistent efforts of #IndianArmy, 5 hunters of #UpperSubansiri, who crossed over #LAC on 2 Sept, will finally return on 12 Sept. #PLA will hand them over to #India in #Damai#China at 0930hrs morning. #LohitValleypic.twitter.com/FtyRaFLVXl
— PRO Defence Tezpur (Assam/Arunachal Pradesh) (@ProAssam) September 11, 2020
Their families and locals, however, said they were porters.
Earlier this week, the Chinese Army had confirmed their presence in the country.
“As a result of persistent efforts of Indian Army, five missing hunters from Indian side of LAC in Upper Subansiri, who had inadvertently crossed over to other side on 2 September 2020, were traced. Chinese Army on September 8 responded on hotline and confirmed that the missing Indians have been found on their side,” the army had said in a statement.
The army said three such incidents, including the latest one, had taken place this year in Upper Subansiri and West Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh and that all have been brought back home.
The army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police uses locals as porters, guides and scouts during Long-range patrols (LRPs). They need help from porters to carry supplies at all strategic points along the McMahon Line, the effective border between India and China.
Sources say porters and guides after dropping off cargo at forward posts often go to higher altitude to hunt for musk deer or collect herbs like “gumba”. The mask deer and the gumba, a traditional medicine, have big prices in the international grey market. It is possible the five men strayed away while looking to hunt or collect herbs.
India and China have been locked in a military stand-off in eastern Ladakh since May, when PLA intruded into Indian territory. Several rounds of military and ministerial talks have led to only partial Chinese withdrawal from the Galwan Valley, where, in June, 20 Indian soldiers had died in the line of duty in a clash with Chinese troops.