India ‘trampling’ upon Panchsheel pact, dispute can hit boundary talks: China
China on Wednesday said Indian troops were “still standing in Chinese territory” at Donglang, hinting that the standoff near the Sikkim border could affect the bilateral mechanism to address the long-standing boundary dispute.
The foreign ministry said the “trespass” by Indian troops violated the “spirit” of talks by the Special Representatives on the border issue. It also said the current face-off could be resolved only by Indian troops returning to their original positions.
The ministry added that India had “trampled” on the Panchsheel pact or the “five principles of peaceful existence” by allegedly entering Chinese territory. China also said India was “misleading” its citizens by saying Doklam or Donglang is located at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China.
“The Indian border troops are still standing in Chinese territory and the issue is not resolved,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
India and China have held 19 rounds of talks under the Special Representatives mechanism since 2003.
But after days of shrill rhetoric since the standoff began three weeks ago, there was also a conciliatory move by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, which said Beijing is willing to discuss the possibility of “alternative arrangements through other routes” for Indian pilgrims who had planned to visit Kailash Manasrovar via Nathu La.
The yatra to Kailash Manasrovar is an “important part of China-India people-to-people and cultural exchanges” and Beijing respects the Indian people’s religious sentiments, embassy spokesperson Xie Liyan said.
Xie reiterated China’s position that the yatra had been suspended days before the departure of the first batch of pilgrims because “Indian border troops crossed into the Chinese territory and obstructed the Chinese border troops’ normal activities in Doklam”.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng said the Indian side had “trampled on the basic norms of international relations that were proposed by itself by illegally crossing into other’s territory”. He noted that China, India and Myanmar had jointly proposed the five principles of peaceful coexistence in the 1950s.
Geng too reiterated the Chinese allegation that Indian troops had “entered the Chinese side of the delimited boundary” in the Sikkim sector and described it as a “serious” matter.
“China and India have been trying to explore ways to resolve the boundary question through the Special Representatives mechanism and have jointly taken measures to maintain peace and tranquillity in border areas. This incident, we believe, violates the spirit upheld by the Special Representatives mechanism,” he said.
Geng also rhetorically asked how Indian is supposed to win the trust of its neighbours and play a bigger role in international affairs if it “refuses to correct its mistakes in a timely fashion”
The Chinese government and state-controlled media have aggressively held India responsible for the impasse at Donglang, where China and Bhutan have a territorial dispute.
China has repeatedly cited the “Convention between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet”, signed in 1890, to say it had demarcated the borders between Tibet, under China’s Qing dynasty, and Sikkim.
The only official reaction from the Indian government was on June 30, when New Delhi said the construction of a road in Donglang amounted to changing the status quo. The external affairs ministry also said it was “deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions” at the strategic tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.
Referring to Bhutan’s position, Geng said Beijing has held 24 rounds of talks with Thimphu since the 1980s to resolve the bilateral boundary issue. “Although the boundary is yet to be settled we have a basic consensus on the boundary. There is no dispute between our countries that Doklam belongs to China,” he said.
“China’s actives in relevant areas do not violate agreements and do not alter the status quo. We will work together with Bhutan to properly resolve the boundary question through friendly negotiations,” he said.
However, Bhutan last week issued a demarche to China to stop building a road in Donglang area and to maintain status quo.