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What if China, Bhutan strike a deal: Rahul Gandhi to govt

Rahul Gandhi wanted to know of New Delhi is aware about the engagements between China and Bhutan, to which the foreign secretary answered in the affirmative but added that India doesn’t see any possibility of such a land deal in the near future.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2018 08:16 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji and Rahul Singh
Saubhadra Chatterji and Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
China,Bhutan,China Bhutan land deal
Congress president Rahul Gandhi(PTI Photo)

India’s diplomatic efforts have paid off in the Doklam controversy, government told a House panel on Thursday even as the Centre said they are looking closely at engagements between China and Bhutan, parliamentary sources said.

At the meeting of the parliamentary panel on external affairs, Congress president Rahul Gandhi asked foreign secretary about the possibilities of China and Bhutan making their own land-swapping deal with Bhutan giving away crucial parts of Doklam to its northern neighbour, according to people present in the meeting.

Gandhi wanted to know of New Delhi is aware about the engagements between China and Bhutan, to which the foreign secretary answered in the affirmative but added that India doesn’t see any possibility of such a land deal in the near future.

At the meeting on the ‘Sino-India Relations including Doklam, border situation and cooperation in international organizations’, the panel invited retired army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, former diplomat Nalin Surie and retired Col. Vinayak Bhat to give evidence on the issue.

Members like Md Salim of CPIM pointed out to the media reports on the construction work carried on by the Chinese military in the Doklam area, which witnessed 73-day Doklam standoff between India and China.

According to members present at the meeting, government officials pointed out that the constructions are not happening in the disputed area but in the Chinese territory. “We are aware of the developments. But our diplomatic efforts have paid off. After July 2017, no more stand-off has taken place in Doklam,” officials said.

Indian experts said that Doklam-like situation along the Sikkim border is likely to be the new normal, a reputed defence think tank has observed, making a strong case for building military capabilities as China respects strength.

In a new paper titled Looking Beyond Doklam, the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), a think tank set up by the defence ministry a decade ago, said it is crucial for India to demonstrate strength as peace along the disputed border or Line of Actual Control (LAC) will be “constantly and continuously” under stress with “increase in frequency, intensity and depth of (Chinese) transgressions leading to more and more standoffs”, the foreign ministry told the panel.

Last year, China had accused India of trespass and preventing its troops from building a road in the remote Himalayan plateau that is claimed by both China and Bhutan. The 73-day standoff ended with withdrawal of troops and China removing road-building equipment.

“Doklam was definitely different from Chumar (2014) and Depsang (2013), as China resorted to an information war, exploiting both the Chinese media and also investing in the Indian media,” wrote CENJOWS director, lieutenant general (retd) Vinod Bhatia in the paper.

Bhatia was the director general of military operations when India and China were locked in a tense border standoff at Depsang in Ladakh four years ago. He has also commanded the Siliguri-based HQs 33 Corps that controls the Sikkim sector.

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 23:32 IST