Pull back all troops to end stand-off, China tells India

Pull back all troops to end stand-off, China tells India

SAM Staff,
Jawans patrol Bumla pass on the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh. File | Photo Credit: AFP

A detailed statement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday has said that India may not only have to scale down its forces in Doklam, but also pull back all its troops to end the military standoff in the area.

“As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory,” the foreign ministry said, adding that Indian troops in the Doklam or Dong Lang area peaked to 400 personnel at one point.

“On 16 June 2017, the Chinese side was building a road in the Dong Lang area. On 18 June, over 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim Sector at the Duo Ka La [Doka La] pass and advanced more than 100 meters into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road building of the Chinese side, causing tension in the area,” the statement said.

“In addition to the two bulldozers, the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 meters into the Chinese territory,” it said.

India was informed in advance about China’s intent to start road construction in the area. “China did not cross the boundary in its road-building, and it notified India in advance in full reflection of China’s goodwill,” it said.

The Chinese side reiterated that India must unconditionally pull back its troops from the stand-off area. “The incident took place on the Chinese side of the delimited boundary. India should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its trespassing border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary. This is a prerequisite and basis for resolving the incident.”

The foreign ministry warned that “no country should ever underestimate the resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty.” It asserted that “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests.”

Analysts say that China’s formal position to end the stand-off has not shifted, notwithstanding the July 27 talks in Beijing between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

Wednesday’s statement appears to rebut India’s stance on the stand-off, including the June 30 statement of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The Chinese foreign ministry stressed that the area of the stand-off was not at the China-Bhutan-India tri-junction but 2000 meters away from the spot, which was defined by Mount Gipmochi, under the 1890 convention between China and Britain.

On the contrary the MEA statement said that tri-junction points, under a 2012 agreement were to be finalised “in consultation with the concerned countries.”

For the first time China has cited an Indian non-paper or a discussion draft of 2006, which said that, “Both sides agree on the boundary alignment in the Sikkim Sector.”

But India’s June 30 statement clarified that regarding the boundary in the Sikkim sector, India and China reached an understanding in 2012 reconfirming their mutual agreement on the “basis of the alignment”. It underscored that, “Further discussions regarding finalisation of the boundary have been taking place under the Special Representatives framework.”

 The Chinese statement also rejected India’s position that the road construction undermined New Delhi’s national security interests. It also denied any territorial dispute with Bhutan in Doklam. “The Dong Lang area has all along been part of China and under China’s continuous and effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard,” it said.

The foreign ministry stressed that China and Bhutan have “basic consensus on the actual state of the border area and the alignment of their boundary,” following 24 rounds of boundary talks.

However, New Delhi has cited a statement by Bhutan’s foreign ministry underscoring that the construction of the road “inside Bhutanese territory” is a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China.