BEIJING: An Indian unmanned aerial vehicle entered Chinese territory and crashed in the border area close to India’s Sikkim State. The Chinese military’s Western Theater Command and the foreign ministry called the incident an “intrusion” and voiced China’s strong opposition. The Indian defense ministry explained the drone “lost contact with ground control due to some technical problem and crossed over the LAC [Line of Actual Control] in the Sikkim Sector.”
Indian media reported Friday that India is asking China through diplomatic channels to return the drone. The statement by the Indian defense ministry barely mentioned the intrusion, with no hint of an apology.
We believe that this is not the time for India to make such a request. India needs to first correct its attitude by admitting the intrusion was wrong. It needs to apologize to China and promise no such incident will ever happen again.
India is not the side which gets to decide how that drone came to cross into Chinese territory. The Chinese side’s investigation will determine how Beijing deals with the incident. If India wants to improve relations, it should cooperate with the investigation. If China is certain that the Indian military sent a drone into Chinese territory with hostile intentions and New Delhi keeps up its bad manners, the consequences will be far worse than losing a drone.
The intrusion took place at the same location where a standoff broke off not too long ago between the Chinese and Indian militaries. In a time and at a location so sensitive, both sides should have avoided acting in ways that the other might perceive as provocative to prevent new frictions arising. But India clearly did not behave itself.
Even if it is a technical problem, why is that technical problem happening at the exact wrong place and wrong time? If a Chinese drone flew into Indian territory due to a technical failure, would India accept an explanation that such an incident was a mere accident?
The Indian military has gone too far. New Delhi is relying excessively on China’s good will to maintain friendly relations with India. The Indian military trespassed into Chinese territory this summer and then a drone did it again. Taken together, these actions show India’s provocative attitude. China has the full right to handle the Indian drone issue as it sees fit and the right to take further actions based on the results of the investigation and India’s attitude.
We don’t want a specific incident to damage China-India relations but that does not mean China will concede on its principles. India did not learn its lessons from the Doklam standoff and its military’s provocation in the border areas is ongoing. China needs to respond strongly.