The government on Friday expressed deep concern over China constructing a road in the disputed Doklam area near Sikkim, and said it had conveyed to Beijing that such an action would represent a significant change of status quo with “serious” security implications for India.
India’s reaction follows a face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the area, prompting Beijing to take a tough stance and demand withdrawal of Indian troops from the Sikkim sector as a precondition for “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the situation.
Beijing had also accused India of being a “third-party” to the China-Bhutan dispute.
Reacting to China’s contention, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it was essential that all parties concerned display utmost restraint and abide by their respective bilateral understandings not to change the status quo unilaterally.
It was also important that the consensus reached between India and China through the Special Representatives process was scrupulously respected by both sides, the ministry added.
“India is deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions and has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India,” MEA asserted in a press release.
The ministry also narrated the sequence of events since June 16 when a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road.
“In coordination with the 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,” the ministry said.
In keeping with their tradition of maintaining close consultation on matters of mutual interest, Bhutan and India had been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments, it said.
As far as the boundary in the Sikkim sector was concerned, India and China had reached an understanding in 2012 reconfirming their mutual agreement on the “basis of the alignment”, the ministry said.
Further discussions regarding finalisation of the boundary had been taking place under the Special Representatives framework, it added.
While India referred to the June 26 statement by the Chinese foreign ministry—that Indian border troops crossed the boundary line in the Sikkim sector of the China-India boundary and entered Chinese territory—it did not react to the allegations directly.
On June 16, the ministry said, a PLA construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road.
“It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity,” it said, adding that Bhutan’s ambassador had publicly stated that it lodged a protest with the Chinese government through their embassy in New Delhi on June 20.
The MEA also noted that the Bhutan foreign ministry had yesterday issued a statement underlining that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.
Bhutan has also urged China to return to the status quo as before 16 June 2017, MEA said.
India underlined that the two governments had in 2012 reached an agreement that tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries would be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.
“Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding,” it said.