China ‘unusually aggressive’ over Sikkim standoff, says Jaishankar
China has been unusually aggressive in the standoff with India near the Sikkim border but the two sides are trying to find a solution through diplomatic channels, the government said on Tuesday, hours after Beijing issued a fresh warning to New Delhi.
Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a face-off in the Donglang or Doklam region at the tri-junction of the boundaries of India, Bhutan and China since June 16. India has said its troops acted in coordination with the Bhutan government to oppose the construction of a road by Chinese troops in the strategic region.
On Tuesday, foreign secretary S Jaishankar briefed the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The panel’s members, including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, posed a series of questions to him pertaining to stand-off.
The foreign secretary referred to the issue as a “standoff” and an “incident”, playing down what he said was ‘media hype’, according to sources who were part of the meeting.
While admitting that Beijing was more aggressive than it usually is in such incidents, the top diplomat told the MPs that two countries have put in place mechanisms such as flag meetings and special representative meetings to address issues along the border.
“He explained to the members said India has an understanding with Bhutan which was the reason why the Indian army got involved in the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction in the Sikkim sector after its help was sought when Chinese troops were found building a road in the tri-junction,” a committee member said, requesting anonymity because of the confidential nature of the meeting.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi asked if the face-off was a Chinese tactic to send a message that India would not be able to fulfil its obligations to Bhutan. Jaishankar, sources said, responded by saying that India factors in “sensitivities” of Bhutan and Thimphu had lodged a diplomatic protest with China.
Gandhi also wanted to know why India’s traditional friends such as Iran are not making supportive statements on Kashmir, another member said.
Similar concerns were raised by others members, which included CPI(M) leader Md Salim and Trinamool Congress’s Sugata Bose. They asked Jaishankar why Beijing seemed to be consistently winning over India’s other neighbours and how — despite the apparent bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping — ties were not improving.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday continued its criticism of India over the face-off, saying New Delhi should withdraw troops from Doklam to prevent any escalation and not adopt “illegal trespass” as a policy to achieve political targets.
“The illegal trespass by the Indian border personnel has drawn extensive attention from the international community and many foreign diplomatic missions in China said they were shocked by this,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a regular news briefing.
“We also stressed that the facts are very clear in this incident. The Sikkim section in the China-India boundary is mutually recognised by the two sides. This time, the Indian border personnel illegally trespassed into Chinese territory,” he said.