No, China Is Not Extending The Road In Doklam, Says The Army And MEA
According to a report by The Print, no activity has been reported in Doklam by the Chinese troops. Moreover, the ‘red line’ laid by the Indian Army in the Torsa Nullah, which divided the Doklam Plateau into the south and north parts, has not been crossed by the Chinese, army sources said.
The source was quoted as saying, “They have not crossed the Torsa Nullah. As far as we know, it has been status-quo since August 2017. Whatever the Chinese are doing is limited to the area that they were in earlier.”
A spokesperson from the Ministry of External Affairs also said that the news report from Washington which claimed that the Chinese troops have crossed the red line. Economics Times also reported that VK Singh, Minister of state for external affairs ministry informed in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on whether China has constructed new roads in the southern part of the Doklam Plateau, saying that there were no new developments at the site of the face-off with China in Doklam and its vicinity.
He also stated that the Indian government has always insisted on peace at the borders and also has kept a close eye on any suspicious activity at the borders. He said, “ In our high-level exchanges with China, the government has consistently maintained that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is an important pre-requisite for the smooth development of bilateral relations. The government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.”
The source also informed that the 17(Black Cat) Mountain Division of the Army is closely monitoring the situation even more so, as a thick cloud cover this time of the year is restricting satellite images. It is also to be pointed out that this time of the year, the area witnesses the worst rains with very low visibility.
Reports from various media outlets were flooded with a statement in the US Congressional hearing by Congresswoman Ann Wagner who mentioned that China had resumed construction work in Doklam. She was quoted as saying, “Although, both countries back down, China has quietly resumed its activities in Doklam and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it. China’s activities in the Himalayas remind me of its south China Sea policies. How should our failure to respond to the militarization of the South China Sea inform the international response to these Himalayan border disputes?”, she asked diplomat and former Ambassador to Jordan Alice G Wells, as reported by The Print.
Remarks on Doklam incorrect
The Times of India quoted a government official also termed the reports as being ‘incorrect’. He said, “The press reports attributing remarks on Doklam to a US official are incorrect. Congresswoman Ann Wagner made the reference to Doklam in the form of a question posed to a senior state department official Alice Wells. Ms Wells, in her reply, did not refer to the situation in Doklam and said that India is vigorously defending its northern borders and this is subject of concern to India”.
He also added, “I would reiterate that since the disengagement of Indian and Chinse border personnel in the Doklam area on 28 August 2017, there have been no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity.”
The controversy comes in a time when PM Modi is expected to meet the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping as part of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit. Also, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is slated to visit India later this year, NDTV reported.
Moreover, Deputy Commander of China’s western military region, Major General Liu Xiaowu visited India earlier this month from July 2 to 6 and conducted meetings.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang elaborated on the visit and was quoted by the Reuters as saying, “During his trip, both countries reached broad consensus about improving front-line risk management, the need to maintain peace and stability along the border and strengthening of exchanges between their two border forces.”
The Indo-Chinese ties had hit a low after the 73-day standoff in Doklam last year. This latest gesture is seen positively.
Doklam is a 100 sq km plateau situated at a trijunction between India, Bhutan and China. Around it is the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and India’s Sikkim.
Last year, the Chinese troops started to construct a road in that area and the Bhutanese establishment objected, which ultimately resulted in the Indian troops intervening. The 73-day stand-off which was considered as the most serious stand-off in many decades and also saw hundreds of army personnel from both sides being stationed which finally ended after the Indian army laid a ‘red line’ in the Torsa Nullah. It was also agreed upon that both armies would stay at least 500 metres away from the Torsa Nullah.
The original dispute between Bhutan and China occurred with both countries claiming rights on the land. For India, the concerns were the Chinese would build a road till Jampheri Ridge, atop which the ‘chicken’s neck’ or the door to India’s northeast is open and visible. This raises serious vulnerability and security concerns.