Beijing/New Delhi: China on Tuesday lodged a protest with India over the alleged “crossing of the boundary" by Indian troops in Sikkim and demanded their immediate withdrawal. Beijing warned that future visits by Indians to the Hindu pilgrimage site of Kailash Mansarovar would depend on the resolution of the standoff.

This is seen as a rare move by the Chinese to stop the movement of Indian pilgrims to the revered site as a means of forcing India’s hand to resolve a border standoff.

“Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering. We hope the Indian side can work with China in the same direction and immediately withdraw the personnel who have overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.

“We have lodged solemn representations in Beijing and New Delhi to elaborate on our solemn position," he said.

According to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) that mans India’s border with China along with the Indian Army in Sikkim, there was no incursion by them into Chinese territory.

Media reports in India say that Chinese troops had intruded into Indian territory in Sikkim and destroyed two make-shift bunkers of the Indian Army.

The face-off in the remote area lasted 10 days, PTI said on Monday, adding that the Indian troops had to struggle to stop the Chinese personnel from advancing further into Indian territory.

India and China often accuse each other of intrusions into each other’s territory mainly due to an undemarcated border—a legacy of their brief but bitter border war in 1962.

In 2003, during a visit by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China, Beijing had recognised Sikkim as a state of India.

Brahma Chellaney, an analyst with the Centre for Policy Studies think tank in New Delhi, in a Twitter post on Monday observed that “the Sikkim-Tibet border is not disputed by China, yet that doesn’t deter PLA(China’s People’s Liberation Army)’s latest incursion."

The Twitter post underlines the current tense state of ties between India and China over a host of issues including India permitting a visit by the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which China regards as South Tibet, in April. That the Dalai Lama lives in exile in India riles China. The Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet. In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu said: “As to Indian pilgrims’ journey through Nathu La pass at Sikkim section, I think the Indian side is very clear about this."

“For a long time Chinese government has made enormous efforts to provide the necessary convenience to those Indian pilgrims," Lu said.

“But recently the Indian border personnel trespassed Chinese border to obstruct our construction, we have taken necessary actions. Out of security consideration we have to put off the pilgrimage by the Indian pilgrims through the Chinese pass," he said.

“On the upcoming actions, we have to depend on what the Indian side will do. They have to take action to improve the security situation," Lu said.

The Nathu La route, which is the second route for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, was launched by the two countries in 2015. Prior to this, Indian pilgrims could cross into Tibet only through the Lipu Pass in Himalayas connecting the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand with the old trading town of Taklakot in Tibet.

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