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"The submarine's presence has nothing to do with the present situation and it has been in the Indian Ocean for a while now...Usually, Chinese submarines have a three-month long deployment in the Indian Ocean. This is routine," news agency IANS quoted Navy officers as saying.
The Yuan-class submarine is the same, they said, that was "picked up" by the Indian Navy's Poseidon-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft as soon as it crossed the Malacca Strait on April 19-20. It is from the Chinese Navy's anti-piracy fleet and had sought permission to dock at a Sri Lankan harbour in May, but Colombo rejected the request. It then headed towards Karachi in Pakistan and is reported to have docked there.
Reports of a Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean surfaced amid the recent tension at the Sikkim border after Indian troops allegedly crossed the de facto border or Line of Actual Control last month to stop Chinese troops from building a new road in Doklam, close to the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan and which China counts as its territory.
In a dispute of many years, Bhutan challenges China's claim to Doklam and has objected to Beijing's attempt to build a road there.
China alleges that India is playing "third party" in the dispute and is objecting to its road building on behalf of Bhutan, which does not have diplomatic relations with China. Bhutan has formally protested against China's attempt to build the road.
China has said its border with India in Sikkim is well-demarcated and the Indian Army's action in Doklam is a "betrayal" of the position taken by successive Indian governments. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that India needs to observe their treaty on Sikkim and pull back troops immediately from Doklam.
India's Foreign Ministry said last week that the new road in Doklam will "represent a significant change of status quo with security implications for India". It said it "cherishes peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas. It has not come easily," and urged Beijing to resolve the skirmish through dialogue.
India said the Chinese actions go against an agreement between New Delhi and Beijing in 2012 on the boundary in the Sikkim sector that tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries. "Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding," it said.
In retaliation for the alleged Indian Army's action, Beijing blocked the entry of Indian pilgrims hoping to cross the Sikkim border through the Nathu La pass to visit Mount Kailash in Tibet, which violates a two-year-old accord.
The Indian Army spokesperson said that "India-China relations as also the relationship between both the armies are extremely well managed by a host of mechanisms." He said the Defence Ministry or Army had not made unofficial comments "due to the fact that such sensitive issues are best dealt between two nations away from the media glare."