New Delhi: China continues to take recourse to muscle-flexing via media to threaten India to submission with respect to the dispute over Doka La or Doklam bordering the two countries and Bhutan. The India-China border is 3,488-km long, out of which a 220-km section lies along the outer border of Sikkim.
Today, news mediums are agog with a certain “People’s Liberation Army (PLA) analyst” positing that China would not “compromise” to ease the military tension between the two large countries. Even as official correspondence between China and the government of this country is a rare event, this character called Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhou spoke to a news agency of India. He said, “China so far has not used the word ‘invasion’. We have only used words like ‘trespass’ or ‘incursion’ and that is the goodwill of China.” The man is reportedly a (or the) director at the Centre on China-American Defence Relations of the Academy of Military Science. Xiaozhou said: “We hope for the best but we — the Chinese government and the military — do not have any room to make any compromise on the matter. So for the well-being of the two peoples and the amity of the two countries, India must withdraw unconditionally.”
Reminding India of Asia’s colonial times, this self-styled expert has been quoted by news mediums as saying, “For China early harvest means, we want to have a new agreement with India because the 1890 convention was signed between Great Britain and China. At that time, it was not the People’s Republic of China. India became independent in 1947. It is better we change the signatures of the convention, that is what I mean by an early harvest.”
That echoes the sentiment of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which stated through its 2 August fact-sheet on Doklam standoff that Beijing was expecting an “early harvest” in the Sikkim sector.
In another instance demonstrating China’s proclivity to talk to India through its puppets in the media, an editorial in China Daily read: “The countdown to a clash between the two forces has begun… New Delhi should come to its senses while it has time… The countdown to a clash between the two forces has begun, and the clock is ticking away the time to what seems to be an inevitable conclusion.”
Nevertheless, while news mediums remain China’s medium of communicating its stand to India, not all opinions come from little known or frivolous types. Wang Wenli, Deputy Director General of the Boundary and Ocean Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has said to a media house of that country, “Even if there is only one Indian soldier, even for a day it is still a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Indian side has also many tri-junctions. What if we use the same excuse and enter the Kalapani region between China, India and Nepal or even into the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan? Therefore, using the tri-junction as an excuse does not hold water at all. It will only cause more trouble.”
In the meantime, the number of Chinese soldiers at a distance of around 1 km from the Dolam plateau, north of Doka La post, has increased. Reportedly, 80 tents of PLA soldiers have been spotted in the region. China’s first line of defence in the area comprises 800 soldiers while 300 soldiers behind them are on standby.
While India maintains that its military strength in the first line comprises 350 soldiers and fortifications behind them, China wishes to make light of it by claiming that the Indian soldiers in the forward areas number a mere 53. The Chinese Foreign Ministry told state-run Global Times that nearly “53 people and a bulldozer from the Indian side remain in Chinese territory as of Monday”. The ministry said: “India should withdraw its troops and equipment. Regardless of how many Indian troops have trespassed into and stayed in Chinese territory, they have gravely infringed on China’s sovereignty.”
India has pooh-poohed the Chinese act of dismissing India’s military presence in the region. The Indian Army informed the media that units of 33 Corps are on operational alert — a two-week long yearly training event excluding the time for movement and acclimatisation for troop deployment at higher altitudes. This is the wing of the Army that keeps vigil on India’s border with China along Sikkim.
The posturing above notwithstanding, sources tell us that India and China are close to reaching a resolution to the dispute. PLA has agreed to pull its troops back by 100 m while India insists that either side should retreat by 250 m.
The United States is apparently on India’s side in this matter. American Congressman from Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “I’m very concerned about what is happening on Doklam Plateau. I believe that China has taken certain provocative steps that have escalated into the current standoff on the plateau.” The Congressman had recently met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi although the Doklam standoff did not figure in their talks.
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has remarked that the standoff is “not a very serious issue”, counselling the 2 countries to live as neighbours. He believes ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai (India-China brotherhood)’ is the solution to the problem. “I do not think it (Doklam standoff) is very serious. India and China have to live side by side… Even in 1962, Chinese forces had reached Bomdilla, (and) eventually withdrew. India and China have to live side by side,” he said. Some analysts believe Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April this year could have led to Beijing’s aggressive posture in Doklam.
The dispute is tripartite. China claims that it has every right to make its troops move within its territory for any purpose whatsoever. Bhutan contests the claim that Doklam is Chinese territory and calls the area its own. India is concerned over the Chinese act of road building in the region as it may allow Chinese troops to snap India’s access to its northeastern states. New Delhi has communicated its apprehension to Beijing.
This dispute dates back to 1962, but the latest episode began on 1 June when the PLA asked the Indian Army to remove 2 of its bunkers in Doka La that have existed there since 2012. The soldiers of the two sides got into a scuffle on 8 June. In 2013, the PLA had penetrated into the Indian territory by about 30 km till the Depsang plains. The Indian troops then pushed them back to the Chinese territory.
Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam. China claims it is part of its Donglang region.