The Hindu – China may be giving a diplomatic message via tri-junction

Dinakar Peri and Josy Joseph

New Delhi, 29 June 2017. The Army chief is expected to visit Sikkim as early as Thursday to review the tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops, even as military officers said that such standoffs were not unprecedented.

Army sources said General Bipin Rawat could visit Sikkim at the earliest to review the situation where standoff between troops of both sides is believed to be continuing.

According to reliable sources, Indian Army troops objected to the Chinese soldiers carrying out construction on a road stretch through the disputed Dolam Plateau (Donglang or Doklam), triggering the confrontation. In response, Chinese authorities denied entry to pilgrims for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via the Nathua La pass.

In a rebuff, Bhutan refutes China’s claims on Doko La road construction

Former Army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury told The Hindu that such incidents were not new and date back to 1967 when the first such clash took place at Nathu La between Indian and Chinese troops.

“This is a flashpoint. These take place from time to time,” General Roychowdhury said. However, he said the question to ask is why are such incidents taking place with such frequency.

“Is it because our Prime Minister is perceived to be too close to the USA or is it to assist its best ally Pakistan? Or is it a combination of all these factors plus history. Add to that is the fact they have turned the pilgrims away.”

Keeping India engaged

A recently retired Army officer who has served on the Sikkim border with China said he too believed that the timing of the Chinese action, not just in provoking a border standoff but to send back Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims, was a diplomatic message to coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the USA.

Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses said these incidents were a continuum of maintaining stability at a strategic level while “keeping India engaged at the tactical level through political, diplomatic and military means.” He said the standoff would take sometime but would be resolved.

‘China used bulldozer to remove Indian bunker in Sikkim section of border’

“It could be said to be Chinese manifestation of the choices India has made in the recent past,” he said in the context of the recent disputes between the two countries and the timing of the incident.

Army sources pointed out that the standoff at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction was not unprecedented. “It is almost an annual affair,” one officer who had served there said.

“The Chinese believe that the Dolam Plateau belongs to them, and have been constructing a road through the disputed area to Bhutan for a long time,” he pointed out.

And the present standoff must also be seen against recent diplomatic unease between the two sides, including India’s stand on the Belt and Road Initiative.

Border on the boil

There were repeated skirmishes on the Indo-China border ever since the 1962 war

September 1967: Chinese troops fired at Indian posts close to Nathu La and Indian Army retaliated with full force. Both sides suffered casualties with China significantly higher. A ceasefire was declared later.

June 1986: Indian Army launched exercise Chequerboard after China amassed thousands of troops in the Thandrong pasture on the banks of the Somdurong Chu (river). The situation was diffused diplomatically by August 1987.

November 2008: Chinese troops destroyed makeshift Indian army bunkers at Doko La near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

April 2013: Chinese troops intruded in Daulat Beg Oldi in Eastern Ladakh and set up camps in Depsang valley. These came ahead of Premier Li Keqiang’s India visit.

August 2014: Chinese troops enter 25 to 30 km deep into Indian territory in Burtse area in Ladakh and pitched their tents and the standoff continued for three weeks.

September 2014: About 1,000 troops intruded 3 km inside Chumar in Eastern Ladakh. The incident lasted for a week and coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India.

March 2016: A platoon of PLA soldiers came about 5.5 km inside the Indian territory near Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh. Incident resolved in a few hours.

June 2017: China removed an old bunker of the Indian Army located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan in Sikkim by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request to dismantle it.

Beijing’s stance

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang touched upon a slew off issues while addressing the media in Beijing Donglang’s status

‘Donglang is part of China’s territory. This is indisputable. The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn’t belong to Bhutan’.

Road project

‘Chinese construction of the road project is legitimate and normal action on its territory. No other country has the right to interfere’

Kailash-Mansarovar yatra

‘The suspension of the same is an emergency response to the situation there. I want to stress that the resumption of pilgrims pass requires necessary atmosphere and conditions’

Bhutan’s sovereignty

‘If any third party, out of hidden agenda, interferes it is disrespect of the sovereignty of Bhutan. We don’t want to see this as Bhutan is a country entitled to sovereignty by the international community’.

Pakistan’s efforts

‘China thinks that the international cooperation against terrorism should be enhanced and stepped up. The international community should give full recognition and affirmation to Pakistan’s efforts in this regard’

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/china-may-be-giving-a-diplomatic-message-via-tri-junction/article19165883.ece?homepage=true

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