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China ambiguous on future plans for road that triggered Doklam row

China is ambiguous about the road project at Doklam that triggered a standoff with India, saying it will consider all factors, including the situation on the ground, before making any plans.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2017 22:18 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-China relations,Bhutan,Doklam Standoff
File photo of a man walking inside a conference room, used for meetings between military commanders of China and India, on the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh in November 2009. (Reuters)

A day after India and China resolved the military standoff in Doklam that was triggered by the construction of a road by Chinese troops, Beijing was ambiguous about its future plans for the project in an area claimed by Bhutan.

The foreign ministry said China would consider “all factors” for its road construction plans in Doklam, known as Donglang in Chinese, near the Sikkim border.

China had blamed India for the impasse that lasted more than two months, accusing Indian soldiers of “illegal trespass” and preventing Chinese soldiers from building the road. After the face-off was resolved, reports from Doklam suggested China might not go ahead with the construction of the road.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked more than once to clarify whether China had halted road construction in Doklam during a news briefing on Tuesday, but she did not give a direct response.

Hua’s response was instead couched in ambiguous language that indicated China might have halted construction work.

“China has long engaged in infrastructure development, including road construction in Doklam. We will take into consideration all factors, including weather, to make relevant construction plans according to the situation on the ground,” she said.

“In order to meet the needs of defending the borders, improving the living conditions, China has long engaged in infrastructure development, including road construction,” she added.

During the standoff, China had repeatedly said talks could be held only after India withdrew its troops from Doklam. India had responded to this demand by saying the road would have serious security implications and alter the status quo.

During the news briefing, Hua reiterated that “Chinese border troops will continue to station and patrol the Doklam area”. She said, “We will continue to exercise our sovereignty with historic conventions.”

Hua didn’t respond to a question on whether China was holding consultations with Bhutan, which protested when Chinese troops began building the road.

“So far, we have resolved the issue of illegal trespass of the Indian troops,” she said.

Referring to the upcoming BRICS Summit that will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hua said China hoped all members of the grouping will play a role for the success of the summit to be held in the coastal city of Xiamen during September 3-5.

Asked whether China had “halted” work on the road in Doklam to ensure the BRICS Summit passed off uneventfully, Hua said: “Peaceful resolution of the issue through diplomatic channels serves the common interests of all relevant parties. It shows the sincerity and responsible attitude of China as a major country.”

The summit, she said, is the common cause of all BRICS countries and ensuring its success serves the interests of all parties. “We hope all relevant parties can play a role for the success of the summit. We hope to get the support and coordination from all relevant parties,” she added.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 18:20 IST