China rejects Sushma Swaraj’s suggestion for simultaneous withdrawal from Doklam

China rejects Sushma Swaraj’s suggestion for simultaneous withdrawal from Doklam

By Atul Aneja/The Hindu

Beijing, August 8: China has rejected Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s suggestion that both India and China should simultaneously withdraw  their troops from Doklam to defuse the current explosive situation.

China on Tuesday did not rule out war as a possibility to end the standoff between Chinese and Indian troops at the Doklam plateau as the situation there had acquired a “dangerous” dimension.

Officials in Beijing also underscored that a mutual pull out of forces from the area, as proposed by India, was not an option. “If India continues going down the wrong path, we have the right to use any action under international law to protect the lives of its troops,’’ said Wang Wenli, a Chinese diplomat in the department of the boundary and oceanic affairs, during an interaction with a visiting Indian media delegation.

“Delhi should stop sending signals that everything is under control,”  Ms.Wang said.

Ms. Wang appeared to signal that time was running out to peacefully resolve the crisis, which could only be defused with the unilateral withdrawal of Indian troops from the Doklam plateau.

Ms. Wang underscored that China’s perception of the current standoff was qualitatively different and serious, compared to previous occasions. She stressed that during earlier face-offs — such as Demchok and Chumar — China had never issued any position paper — a reference to the 15 page foreign ministry note of August 2 on the Doklam situation.

She also pointed to out that Chinese people were closely following the issue, signaling the growing domestic pressures on the Chinese establishment to end the military standoff at Doklam.

The Foreign Ministry official was making her voice heard, about the urgency of a resolution of the crisis, at a time when the top leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been in a huddle at the Beidaihe coastal retreat not far from the Chinese capital. The meeting at Beidaihe is part of a customary Chinese tradition, which began after the emergence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), where the CPC, after considerable brainstorming, takes major decisions on major domestic and international issues and situations.

Analysts say that despite the secrecy associated with the event, a serious discussion on the Doklam issue cannot be ruled out. According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese President Xi Jinping left for Beidaihe soon after inspecting an Inner Mongolia parade, marking the 90th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Liberation Army(PLA).

‘No simultaneous troop withdrawal’

Ms. Wang rejected simultaneous troop withdrawals by Chinese and Indian troops from Doklam as proposed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

“We have made it very clear that this is not Indian territory; they are interfering in China’s territorial sovereignty and this can be very dangerous. Under these conditions when Indian troops are on our soil, it is impossible for China to conduct any dialogue,’’ she observed.

The Chinese diplomat dismissed the perception that Bhutan had invited Indian troops into Doklam, following the construction of the road in the area by China.

Map of the trouble spot showing Doklam.

‘India’s claim exposed’

Ms. Wang stressed that after many rounds of talks following the outbreak of the Doklam incident, Bhutan had made is very clear to China that it was unaware of India’s “trespassing” into the area. Her remarks rebut New Delhi’s position that India moved its troops “in coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB)”.

She added that following China’s road construction, only eight Bhutanese soldiers crossed over, but returned, never to show up again. These remarks coincide with a June 30 statement of the Ministry of External Affairs, which stated that, “It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them (Chinese road construction party) from this unilateral activity.”

Ms. Wang stressed that in the mid-nineties, Bhutan had agreed that Donglang, the Chinese name for Doklam, belonged to China — an assertion meant to buttress Beijing’s position that the standoff area is undisputed Chinese sovereign territory. She added that following 24 rounds of boundary talks with Bhutan, Beijing and Thimphu had worked out a “basic consensus” on the situation and alignment of the boundary.

A disputed territory, says Bhutan

However, Bhutan’s ambassador to India, Vetsop Namgyel, is on record stating that, “Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquility should be maintained in the area.”

The Chinese official also rejected India’s contention that contrary to an agreement in 2012 between Special Representatives of the two countries, China had unilaterally changed the status quo in the tri-junction area of the Doklam plateau. Ms. Wang reiterated that the area of the standoff was not in the tri-junction area but 2 km away from Mount Gipmochi-the exact location of the tri-junction point, as perceived by China.

(The featured image at the top shows Indian and Chinese troops at the border)