Defence Minister Confirms China Building Trenches, Helipads In Doklam
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha on Monday, March 5 that China was building “some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads in Doklam,” PTI reported. The Minister was replying to a question raised by Congress member Motilal Vohra on whether satellite images have revealed that China has constructed seven helipads in Doklam besides deploying tanks and missiles in the area.
According to The Telegraph, Sitharaman told the House in a written reply: “Post disengagement from the face-off in 2017, troops of both sides have redeployed themselves away from their respective positions at the face off-site.” She further added, “The strengths of both sides have been reduced. In order to maintain these troops during the winter, the People Liberation Army has undertaken construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads.”
The previous week, the junior Defence Minister Subhash Bhamre stressed on the sensitivity of the situation along the Indo-China border, indicating that it has potential to escalate.
On being asked whether India had taken up the issue with China, Sitharaman said that border issues were regularly discussed with Beijing through diplomatic channels, as well as meetings of border personnel and flag meetings.
Responding to a question on the Pentagon Report which said that China was setting up a military base in Pakistan, Sitharaman said, “The government has seen media reports in this regard and keeps a constant watch on such developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.The government is aware of China’s stated objective of becoming a maritime power. As part of this strategy, China is developing ports and other infrastructure facilities in the littoral countries in the Indian Ocean region, including in the vicinity of India’s maritime boundary.”
Reports suggest that China had already been ramping up its infrastructure and troops in the Doklam area since the last few months.
This is the first time that the government has admitted to any Chinese activity in the area after reports suggesting a Chinese build-up in the area surfaced in January.
The Doklam Issue
Doklam is an area spread over less than 100 square kilometres comprising a plateau and a valley at the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and Pakistan.
In recent years, the Chinese have been increasing their military force in Chumbi Valley, surrounding the region where they are at a great disadvantage militarily. Both Indian and Bhutanese troops are on higher ground around the Valley. Many believe that this is also the reason for the Chinese interest in the area: it would give them easy access to the Valley and the Siliguri Corridor.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day long standoff in Doklam since June last year after the Indian Army stopped the construction of a road in the disputed region by the Chinese Army. This construction faced a backlash from the Bhutanese and the Indian government, the stated reason being that the security and relations between the two countries were being violated.
However, soon after this, the Chinese Government released a map to accuse India of trespassing into its territory.
he face-off ended on August 28, 2017, when both sides agreed to pull out their troops, and China stopped the construction of the road to which the Government had objected. The issue was settled “diplomatically” and the events and agreements that followed remain a mystery.
However, in January, satellite images of China’s construction in Doklam emerged.
Army Chief Bipin Rawat had denied that these were permanent military bases. “As far as Doklam is concerned, PLA (People’s Liberation Army) soldiers are there in a part of the area although not in numbers that we saw them in initially. They have carried out some infrastructure development which is mostly temporary in nature,” he said.