China's People's Liberation Army is likely to hand over five youths missing from Arunachal Pradesh to the Indian authorities on Saturday, Union minister Kiren Rijiju said.
The PLA on Tuesday had conveyed that the five youths, who went missing on September 4 from the Sino-Indian border in Upper Subansiri district, were found by them across the border.
"The Chinese PLA has confirmed to the 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," Rijiju tweeted on Friday.
It was Rijiju who first broke the news about the PLA's confirmation that the youths were found on the Chinese side of the Sino-Indian border.
Rijiju, the Union sports minister, hails from Arunachal Pradesh.
The incident came to light when two members from the group of youths, who went hunting in the jungle, returned home and informed the families of the five that they were whisked away by the Chinese troops from Sera-7, an Army patrol zone located about 12 km further north of Nacho.
Nacho is the last administrative circle along the McMahon line and is around 120 km from the district headquarters Daporijo.
Those who were allegedly kidnapped by the Chinese Army were identified as Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri.
On Monday, China brushed off concerns over the whereabouts of the five youths and needled India, saying it has never recognised Arunachal Pradesh which it claims is part of south Tibet.
"China's position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China's Xizang (Tibet) ), is consistent and clear," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing, adding the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh".
"I'm not aware of the situation you mentioned," the spokesperson said when asked about any updates about the missing Indian nationals.
The development comes at a time when the Indian Army has enhanced its deployment along the 3,400 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in view of the tense border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
In March, a 21-year-old man was abducted by the PLA from Asapila sector near the McMahon line.
While his two friends managed to escape, Togley Sinkam was taken away at gunpoint, his family had said.
After 19 days in captivity, the youth was released by the Chinese Army.
On September 2, the Indian Army provided food, warm clothes and medical assistance to three Chinese citizens who had lost their way in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 17,500 feet in a border area in North Sikkim.
The Indian Army personnel deployed in the area also guided the Chinese citizens, including a woman, to return to the Chinese side and reach their destination.