India says all well at Doklam; China justifies troop patrols: Top 10 points

Published on Oct 07 2017 - - India - -

The government on Friday said reports of China increasing the number of its troops or constructing a road at Doklam were incorrect. The clarification came after reports emerged that China has maintained a sizeable troop presence near the site of the Sikkim border standoff with India and has even started building a road on the Doklam Plateau, just 10 km from the location of the last conflict.The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said there were “no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the August 28 disengagement” between Indian and Chinese troops. It said the “status quo prevails in the area.”The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said there were “no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the August 28 disengagement” between Indian and Chinese troops. It said the “status quo prevails in the area.”However, agency reports from Beijing indicated that China does indeed have troops present near Doklam. Given these developments, are India and China heading for a Doklam redux?

Here are the top 10 developments:

1) Responding to reports of Chinese troop presence near Doklam and road construction activity, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a press statement: “We have seen recent reports on Doklam. There are no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the 28th August disengagement. The status quo prevails in this area. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.”

2) Media reports have emerged that China has maintained a sizeable presence of its troops near the site of the Sikkim border standoff with India and even started building a road on the Doklam Plateau, just 10 km from the location of the last conflict. Sources said China has been slowly increasing its troop level in the Doklam Plateau which could further escalate the current situation as India has reasons to be concerned over it.

3) Thwarted in its last attempt, China has now shifted its unused road construction material North and East of the face-off site. According to NDTV, the road construction workers brought into the area are accompanied by up to 500 soldiers. There is no indication that the soldiers will be permanently based in the area – the Chinese town of Yatung, said the report. An Indian Express report, however, said that 1,000 Chinese troops are still present on the plateau.

4) An agency report from Beijing suggested that Chinese troops were very much present near Doklam. China not only defended the presence of its troops in the area but reiterated its sovereignty over it. Bhutan and India dispute Chinese claims on the area and consider it Bhutanese territory. “The Donglang (Doklam) area has always belonged to China and has been under the effective jurisdiction of China,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry told PTI in Beijing in response to questions about a report that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is beefing up troops in the area.

5) Responding to the reports in the Indian media, Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming told the South China Morning Post that Chinese soldiers were almost certainly in the area to carry out infrastructure and construction work. “The PLA [China’s military] has a base not far from the site of the stand-off and several hundred soldiers are stationed there,” he said, adding, “Usually they have work to do in the region, like building roads, so that is what they are probably doing as there is still some time before the snowy season.”

6) On Thursday, India’s Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said Chinese troops were currently present in the Chumbi Valley, which is in the Doklam Plateau, and added that a peaceful resolution of the issue would be in the interest of both countries. “The two sides are not in a physical face-off as we speak. However, their forces in Chumbi Valley are still deployed and I expect them to withdraw as their exercise in the area gets over,” Dhanoa had said. Dhanoa added that the Indian Army was prepared to effectively counter any threat from China, while confronting a two-front war also involving Pakistan, which has recently intensified border issues. (Read more here)

7) Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi tweeted asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain reports that the Chinese have again started constructing the road in Doklam. “Modiji, once you’re done thumping your chest, could you please explain this?” Gandhi tweeted, tagging a news report headlined, “With 500 Soldiers On Guard, China Expands Road in Doklam”.

8) This week, in a first, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came close to acknowledging ‘victory’ at Doklam. Modi on Wednesday termed critics of his government as those suffering from ‘Shalya-vrutti’, or pessimism, who are exultant about economic slowdown on the meagre evidence of a dip in growth in one quarter. The PM also seemed to suggest that such pessimists were dismissive of India’s strength in standing up to China on the Doklam issue. “Nothing can be done, how will you do it? When Doklam happened these same people…” the PM said, gesticulating with his hands, indicating that such people were dismissive about India’s ability to stand firm against China during the Doklam stand-off.

9) The PM’s reference to Doklam came while Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was on a four-day visit to Bhutan. The MEA said that during the Foreign Secretary’s Bhutan visit, which began on Monday, he met with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, and Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji. Jaishankar also held wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Dasho Sonam Tshong. This was the first high-level visit from India after the end of the stand-off between Indian and Chinese armies at Doklam. Asked whether the Doklam stand-off figured in the talks, the MEA officials refused to comment.

10) In late August, India and China ended their 73-day military stand-off at Doklam where their borders meet with Bhutan. In June, the Indian army had stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the area, which is claimed by Bhutan. This led to the face-off. However, both sides decided to retreat from the face-off point, ending the crisis

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