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Doklam belongs to us and construction activity is legitimate, India shouldn’t comment: China

Beijing’s response came two days after media reports on satellite images showing a massive infrastructure build-up in Doklam, the site of a 73-day face-off between India and China.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2018 09:29 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Donglang,Doklam standoff,Narendra Modi
File photo of a Chinese soldier gesturing next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing in India's northeastern Sikkim state in July 2008. China said its construction activities in Doklam was legitimate.(AFP)

China on Friday justified its construction of roads and infrastructure at Doklam near the Sikkim border, saying the area is under its “effective jurisdiction” and the work is aimed at improving conditions for troops based in its “own territory”.

However, the external affairs ministry insisted the status quo at the site of last year’s face-off between Indian and Chinese troops had not been altered. It said it was keeping a “constant vigil” on the situation in Doklam and that two sides have used established mechanisms to resolve any “misunderstanding”.

Beijing’s strong reaction came two days after the Indian media reported that the People’ Liberation Army (PLA) is building a military complex, complete with helipads and trenches, close to the area where border troops from the two countries were locked in a stand-off for 73 days.

“Donglang (Doklam) always belonged to China and (was) always under China’s effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a news briefing.

“In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure, including roads in the Donglang area. China is exercising sovereignty in its own territory.”

Lu suggested India should not comment on China’s construction activities.

“Just as China will not make comments on India’s construction of infrastructure on India’s territory, we hope other countries will not make comments on China’s construction of infrastructure in its own territory,” he said.

Lu was responding to questions on the reports of a massive build-up by Chinese troops in Doklam region, which have triggered fears of another stand-off. The Indian media reports cited satellite imagery of the build-up, including the construction of a military complex.

Asked about the satellite imagery, Lu said, “I have also noted the relevant report. I don’t know who offers such kind of photos.” At the same time, he added that he did not have detailed information on this issue.

Responding to questions on the reported Chinese military build-up at a news briefing in New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar referred to the ministry’s statement on Thursday that had said “the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous.”

Kumar said, “We are of course keeping a constant vigil on developments which have a bearing on India’s national security and take all necessary steps to safeguard it. The two sides do have, and have used, established mechanisms to resolve any misunderstanding.”

He refused to comment on Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s remarks that the Chinese had carried out some “temporary” infrastructure development at Doklam.

Chinese spokesperson Lu referred to Rawat’s comments that Doklam is a territory disputed between China and Bhutan, and said: “The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border.

“This incident has put bilateral relations to undergo a severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident to happen again (sic),” he said.

Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Brics Summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said “the two leaders reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and chartering the course for future development” during that meeting.

“We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations,” he added.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 14:40 IST