New Delhi breaks silence on patrol clash with China; describes close India-Bhutan cooperation - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 30 June 2017

New Delhi breaks silence on patrol clash with China; describes close India-Bhutan cooperation

An Indian Army mascot looks out at the Chumbi Valley from Nathu La

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st July 17

In its first statement on the Indian Army’s on-going confrontation with a Chinese patrol and road construction party that began two weeks ago, New Delhi stated on Friday that it is “deeply concerned” at China’s attempt to alter the status quo, which could have “serious security implications” for India.”

This refers to Sikkim’s proximity to the Siliguri corridor – a narrow “chicken’s neck” that connects the northeast India with the rest of the country. China’s army edging toward this corridor constitutes a nightmare for Indian defence planners.

New Delhi’s statement reveals that troops of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) first intercepted a Chinese construction party on June 16 in the Doka La area of the Doklam Plateau in Sikkim. The incursion took place on Bhutanese territory, near the “tri-junction” of the borders of India, Bhutan and China. It quickly drew in Indian troops, which crossed into Bhutanese territory.

Explaining India’s involvement, the statement says: “In coordination with the RGOB (Royal Government of Bhutan), Indian personnel, who were present at general area Doka La, approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo. These efforts continue.”

Highlighting further the coordination between New Delhi and Thimphu, the statement goes on: “In keeping with their tradition of maintaining close consultation on matters of mutual interest, RGOB and the Government of India have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments.”

Using typically robust methods, Indian troops physically prevented the Chinese from building activities while New Delhi and Beijing have attempted to defuse the crisis.

“The matter has been under discussion between India and China at the diplomatic level in the Foreign Ministries since then, both in New Delhi and Beijing. It was also the subject of a Border Personnel Meeting at Nathu La on 20 June”, said the Indian foreign ministry statement.

Ten days later, with the Indian army in full control of the area where the incident took place, New Delhi has signalled a face-saver for Beijing: “India is committed to working with China to find peaceful resolution of all issues in the border areas through dialogue.”

The three-way confrontation came to public notice early this week, when TV channels repeatedly broadcast a video showing members of Indian patrol physically jostling with a Chinese patrol.

Business Standard has learnt authoritatively that the video in question relates to another patrol clash that took place elsewhere, much earlier. No video has been broadcast of the current confrontation in Sikkim.

Thimphu has played an active role in negotiations, although it does not have diplomatic relations with Beijing. Consequently, Bhutan’s diplomacy was conducted through its embassy in New Delhi. On June 20, the Bhutanese ambassador lodged a protest with the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

On Tuesday Beijing had issued a statement claiming the Doklam plateau, based on the 1890 “Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet.”

Bhutan responded on Thursday, pointing out that Chinese road building directly violates the 1988 and 1998 agreements between the two countries to maintain peace and tranquillity on their border, pending a final solution.

Beijing is particularly furious at India’s intercession on Bhutan’s behalf. Its foreign ministry spokesperson declared: "The China-Bhutan boundary is not delineated, no third party should interfere in this matter and make irresponsible remarks or actions."

Further, “"If any third party, out of hidden agenda, interferes it is disrespect of the sovereignty of Bhutan. We don't want to see this, as Bhutan is a country entitled to sovereignty by the international community.”

New Delhi’s statement also pointed out that India and China “had in 2012 reached agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalized in consultation with the concerned countries. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.”

The statement urges China not to unilaterally change the status quo of the well-settled Sikkim-Tibet boundary. It notes: “India and China had reached an understanding also in 2012 reconfirming their mutual agreement on the ‘basis of the alignment’. Further discussions regarding finalization of the boundary have been taking place under the Special Representatives framework.”

While a shrill Chinese defence ministry has aggressively reminded the Indian Army chief of the 1962 military defeat of India, New Delhi’s statement today is more restrained: “India cherishes peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas. It has not come easily.”

While the crisis plays out, it has disappointed about 100 Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarover, who were to cross through Nathu La into Tibet, but whose entry was blocked by China when the crisis broke out. In 2015, China had accepted India’s request to allow pilgrims through Nathu La -- a relatively easier route than the other route through Uttarakhand. The yatra through Uttarakhand is continuing smoothly. 


  1. I think it is time we start moving into Tibet ourselves,inch by inch.In fact we should make it clear to the Chinese that their presence at Lhasa itself will now be challenged.

  2. NSR says -

    On China ---
    Great articles on India-Bhutan-China issues...
    I hope that the present Indian Army chief emulates great General Sunderji and gives them a bloody nose that they will never forget...
    India must start sending their villagers and herders all the way to where they used to graze in 1970-2010...Congress government timidly ceded the grazing lands to Chinese herders...
    India must re-claim immediately or else China will follow South China Seas like actions to claim all those lands forever...

    On Pakistan -
    India must abrogate article 370 immediately and let people, industry, jobs, development flow into J&K so people and state will benefit...
    Pakistan will never change and it uses CBMs to destabilize India by funding terror groups so immediately stop cross-LOC trade...
    No trade when there is no peace...Money is used to pay stone pelters...

    Look at Ajmeer Dargh Imam comments on separatists - they send their kids to nice schools in India and in foreign countries and then they destroy schools and turn kids into stone pelters...
    Very wise man...

    Nice articles on China...

  3. Hawks are active again. Do we gain tremendously by taking on China now. NO. Do we lose greatly be taking a step back, if required? NO. Is it very probable that we will suffer a lot, if we got to war now? YES.
    Surprising that we do not want to go to war with Pak who, as we say, is more than fingering us on a 24/7 basis. But we are itching to do so with China which is only tickling us. Why doesn't Jaitley realize that this is not a court room where verbal excellence or legality of your stand helps. In any case, part time defence ministers have no business to be so reckless.
    Fight to win, or don't fight. Back off.
    On a TV serial now (Anu Kapoor's music show at 9 PM), I can hear Lata Mangeshkar's song - Aiye mere watan ke logon' being aired already.

  4. @Alok Asthana

    China is not merely "tickling us" but is the root cause of the entire security dilema - arming, funding, nuclearising, missile provider, artillery provider, tank provider, ship provider and now open Paki Terrorist supporter - just to name a few. Every bullet Indian Army faces internaly or externally has China written writ large on it ..... but one needs to open one's eyes to see that rather than groping in the darkness of ones prejudices.

  5. India has to stand her ground otherwise no-one will vote in the RSS-BJP lot again. Can you imagine what that would do to the morale of the cow protectors? Modi has realised that papa Donald will not come and help in any way. For papa America First. They don't want anymore indians anyway. That is why NaMO the warrior of 56' chest has tail between his legs.

    Also where is his personally hand-picked COAS. That dimwit should be out there boosting the morale of his troops and leading from the front. His 2.5 war comments could just turn out to be true. This time there are already calls for PA to be ready to strike and take back J&K if Indo-China war breaks out.


  6. Now modi should appoint Prasun COAS and all the problems vanish away.


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