China accuses Indian border guards of crossing into its territory

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This route for the pilgrim was opened in 2015 and almost 350 pilgrims are scheduled to enter China from Nathu La pass.

Geng's statement comes after tension mounted in a remote area of Sikkim following a scuffle between the personnel of the Indian Army and the PLA, leading to Chinese troops damaging bunkers on the Indian side of the border.

"The Chinese side asked the Indian side to respect the border treaty, respect the territorial sovereignty of China, (asked for) the immediate withdrawal of border officials and (to) thoroughly investigate the matter, to maintain the Sino-Indian border Sikkim section of peace and tranquility". They also destroyed two bunkers in Lalten area of that sector claiming that they were constructed on the Chinese territory.

The Chinese Defence Ministry confirmed the border trouble but accused Indian troops of crossing the border with China "in an attempt to prevent a road construction by the Chinese side".

"At the same time, in view of the above events, for security reasons, the Chinese side had to suspend the arrangement of the Indian official pilgrimage group through the Sino-Indian border at Nathu La pass, Sikkim, into the pilgrimage, and through diplomatic channels informed the Indian side". It called on India to withdraw immediately, according to a ministry statement late on Monday, reported Reuters.

"China is dedicated to developing bilateral relations, and will staunchly defend its legitimate rights", it said.

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It's rare for China to officially accuse India of incursion across the LAC but the face-off between the two armed forces in Sikkim - and the media reports and reaction in India - would have convinced Beijing to come out with not one but two statements within hours. He said the issue was being discussed by the two Foreign Ministries.

Earlier, Indian pilgrims would take a longer route via the Lipulekh Pass route in Uttarakhand. The route through Nathu La reduced the hardship and journey time enabling many more pilgrims, in particular aged pilgrims, to undertake the Yatra.

"Unfortunately in the very first year, China has unilaterally and without reason blocked the Mansarovar Yatra", said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Ongoing tensions over the past weeks have already led Beijing to block the border for official pilgrimages.

China has shut down the Nathu La pass in Sikkim and also denied entry to pilgrims visiting the Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet. This was the second route agreed by the two counties for the Kailash Yatra.

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