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Sushma Swaraj snubs China, says all nations with India on Dokalam

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-07-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India on Thursday shrugged off Chinese pressure to withdraw from the Dokalam plateau, situated at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China, saying that the law was on New Delhi’s side in the matter.

This came on a day that the Chinese foreign ministry said diplomatic channels between the two countries were open but repeated its demand that India withdraw its troops from the Dokalam plateau as a “precondition” for any meaningful dialogue between the Asian giants to resolve the month-old face-off.

It also came as India announced that its national security advisor Ajit Doval would be travelling to China next week for a meeting of the national security advisors from BRICS, or the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa emerging economies bloc.

In Parliament on Thursday, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said China was aiming to unilaterally change the status of the tri-junction with Bhutan, which poses a challenge to India’s security.

There was a written agreement between India, China and Bhutan in 2012 that the three nations will together decide on the boundaries at the tri-junction, she said.

India and China have a dispute over their boundaries dating back to the 1962 war and are in talks to resolve their differences. Tensions between the neighbours have been high for the past month with Chinese troops trying to construct a road on the Dokalam plateau that the Bhutanese objected to. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement have intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay, triggering the face-off.

Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognizes it as Dokalam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. Of the 3,488-km India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim.

In her statement, Swaraj said India was not being “unreasonable” on the issue and all nations were with it. “India’s position is not wrong on the tri-junction and all nations are with it. The law is with our country,” she said, adding: “We are willing to talk, but both sides have to first take back their armies.”

During a foreign ministry briefing in New Delhi, spokesman Gopal Baglay made a renewed pitch for a “peaceful resolution” through diplomatic channels, stressing that “differences” should not become “disputes”.

“India’s approach is to have a peaceful resolution of issues on its border with China,” he said. An understanding reached at a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in June was that differences between the nations should not be allowed to become disputes. Modi met Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in June, in the Kazakh capital Astana.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that diplomatic channels with India remained “unimpeded” to discuss the military stand-off but repeated the position that withdrawal of Indian troops from the Dokalam area is a “precondition” for any meaningful dialogue, PTI reported.

Lu also repeated the Chinese accusation that “Indian border personnel illegally trespassed into China’s territory,” the report said.

Chinese officials say while there may not be a formal meeting between Indian national security advisor Doval—who is also India’s special representative for talks on the boundary dispute—and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, there could be informal talks between the two officials. Both countries have so far held 19 rounds of talks.

Separately, in an opinion piece, the state-run Global Times website said Modi’s election in 2014 had fuelled nationalist sentiments.

“This, on one hand, has enhanced his prestige and ability to control the country, but on the other, has made India more subject to the influence of conservatives, thus hampering reform. In diplomacy, New Delhi is demanded to act tougher in foreign relations, especially toward countries like Pakistan and China,” it said.

“The border row this time is an action targeted at China that caters to the demand of India’s religious nationalists,” the opinion piece said.

“Where the China-India competition goes hinges on each side’s strength and wisdom. India is weaker than China in terms of national strength, but its strategists and politicians have shown no wisdom in preventing India’s China policy from being kidnapped by rising nationalism. This will put India’s own interests in jeopardy,” it warned.

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