Doklam standoff: India silent on China claims

Marie Harrington
August 7, 2017

For almost 50 days now, soldiers from the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army have been positioned on the Doklam plateau, reportedly just 150 feet away from each other.Beijing has responded belligerently to the issue, accusing India of entering Chinese territory (the area where the standoff is taking place is in fact disputed between China and Bhutan) and demanding a non-conditional withdrawal of Indian troops.

On June 16, the Chinese side was building a road in the Dong Lang area (Doklam), located in Yadong county of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.On June 18, over 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim Sector and advanced more than 100 meters into Chinese territory to obstruct the road building of the Chinese side, causing tension in the area.

India maintains that the Doklam Plateau belongs to Bhutan and that China's recent effort to build a road in the area violates a 2012 agreement and significantly alters the status quo.

Talking about how likely it is for this standoff to develop into a fully fledged military conflict, Gokhale said that the conflict is not inevitable because India-China have a tense border problem, which goes back for decades.

India on Friday declined to get into China's claim that the number of Indian troops in Doklam area has come down.

It also urged Modi government to stop lying to its people that "India in 2017 is different from India in 1962", adding that "the gap in national strength between the two countries is the largest in the past 50 years". If there is war, it will be a US-China war, with India on the US side, in the South China Sea and in the Himalayas. As far as economic strength is concerned, China is one of the leading countries among major contributors and economic partners. India and Bhutan regard Doklam as Bhutanese territory while China calls it Dong Lang, and regards it as its territory. We believe that the PLA has made sufficient preparation for military confrontation. "A solution can not be derived out of war", she said.

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Amid high-pitched Chinese rhetoric, India said today it continues to engage with China diplomatically and has been in close coordination with Bhutan in finding a mutually-acceptable solution to the Doklam standoff but did not give details of such interactions. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement then intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay, triggering the face-off.

India claims Sikkim border as part of its territory, while China has said that the area falls on their side as per the 1890 treaty signed between British and China.

Regarding the US' reaction in case there is a war between India and China and whether Washington would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with India, Desai said, "Absolutely".

Desai was also asked separately and directly whether the United States would stand with India in case a war does break out between the two nuclear-armed Asian countries.

He said that it is important to understand the Chinese thought process because they are "much more nationalistic, militaristic and aggressive" this time.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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