Doklam standoff: China cites 2006 document to accuse Indian troops of trespassing
The stand-off on a plateau next to the Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tensions between the neighbours.Updated: Aug 02, 2017 20:25 IST
China on Wednesday cited a 2006 diplomatic document from talks between the Special Representatives on the border issue to back up its claim that Indian troops had trespassed into Chinese territory, triggering the standoff at Donglang in June.
Beijing contended the document – a “non-paper” provided by the Indian side during the meeting of the Special Representatives on the boundary issue on May 10, 2006 – indicated the two sides had agreed to the boundary alignment in the Sikkim sector under an 1890 treaty signed by Great Britain and China.
“Both sides agree on the boundary alignment in the Sikkim Sector,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted the non-paper as saying.
In a first, China also floated the idea that New Delhi and Beijing should sign a new boundary convention to replace the 1890 “Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet” that is said to have demarcated the Sikkim boundary.
A non-paper is an informal document, usually without explicit attribution, used in diplomatic negotiations. It is rare for the contents of such a document to be officially made public by either parties involved in negotiations.
The 15-page Chinese statement made no mention of the India foreign ministry’s assertion in a statement issued on June 30 that the two sides had reached an agreement in 2012 that the “tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries”.
India had also said that any attempt to “unilaterally determine tri-junction points” would violate this understanding.
The statement claimed that India had reduced its troop presence at the site of standoff from 400 soldiers to “40 troops and a bulldozer.”
But soon after the Chinese statement was issued, Indian government sources said there had been no withdrawal of troops by India and status remained unchanged on the ground.
“Neither has the Indian Army pulled back any troops nor has the force observed any withdrawal by the Chinese side. The status remains the same,” the sources said.
The face-off began on June 16, when Indian troops opposed the building of a road by Chinese forces at Donglang or Doklam, which is under China’s control but claimed by Bhutan.
China insists that the Indian troops had trespassed into its territory. India has said the road construction alters the status quo and has “serious security implications”.
The Chinese statement said the boundary in the Sikkim sector “has long been delimited by the 1890 convention” between China and Great Britain and even the signing of a new boundary convention would “in no way” alter the nature of the boundary in the sector.
“The Chinese and Indian sides have been in discussion on making the boundary in the Sikkim Sector an ‘early harvest’ in the settlement of the entire boundary question during the meetings between the Special Representatives on the China-India Boundary Question,” it added.
The more than 2,500-word statement was the latest in the series of steps by the Chinese side blaming India for the impasse. Beijing wants India to withdraw its troops from Donglang before the two sides can open talks.
Referring to the standoff, the statement said: “On 16 June 2017, the Chinese side was building a road in the Dong Lang area. On 18 June, over 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim Sector at the Duo Ka La (Doka La) pass and advanced more than 100 meters into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road building of the Chinese side, causing tension in the area.
“In addition to the two bulldozers, the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 meters into the Chinese territory. As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory,” it added.
The statement categorically mentioned that India has no right to intervene in the territorial dispute between China and Bhutan – indicating Bhutan was just an excuse for India to cross the border and stop Chinese soldiers from building the road.
“The China-Bhutan boundary issue is one between China and Bhutan. It has nothing to do with India. As a third party, India has no right to interfere in or impede the boundary talks between China and Bhutan, still less the right to make territorial claims on Bhutan’s behalf,” it said.
“India’s intrusion into the Chinese territory under the pretext of Bhutan has not only violated China’s territorial sovereignty but also challenged Bhutan’s sovereignty and independence.”
The statement argued it was India that was changing the “status quo” by fortifying its positions. It contended that Indian troops had built a “large number of infrastructure facilities”, including roads at Duo Ka pass and nearby areas on the Indian side, and “fortifications and other military installations”.
China, the statement said, has very little infrastructure on its side. “The fact of the matter is it is India that has attempted time and again to change the status quo of the China-India boundary in the Sikkim Sector, which poses a grave security threat to China,” it said.
The statement reiterated China’s contention that it would take steps to safeguard its “legitimate and lawful rights and interests”. It added, “India should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its trespassing border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary. This is a prerequisite and basis for resolving the incident.”