The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday called for restraint over the latest standoff between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China in the Doklam general area in the Sikkim sector. In a statement, the ministry stressed on the importance of respecting the consensus reached between Indian and Chinese special representatives in the matter.

“India is deeply concerned at the recent Chinese actions,” read the statement. “India has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India.”

The statement was in reference to Chine’s claim from Wednesday, when it had justified the construction of a road in the Sikkim sector. Beijing had claimed that the area was “undoubtedly” located on its side of the border as per the 1890 Sino-British Treaty.

India’s version of the events

The MEA also gave India’s version of the events at the border after Beijing claimed that Indian border troops had crossed the boundary line in the Sikkim sector on June 26. “On June 16, a People’s Liberation Army construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road,” the statement said. “It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity.”

The ministry further said that the Bhutanese government had publicly announced that it had lodged a protest with the Chinese government through their embassy in New Delhi on June 20. Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry also described the construction of the road as a violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and urged Beijing to return to the conditions prevailing before the incident.

The MEA said Indian personnel, in collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan, had urged the Chinese construction party to avoid changing the status quo on the agreements.

The ministry, in its statement, emphasised on the following:

  • A diplomatic discussion on the matter is on between India and China in New Delhi and Beijing. The Sikkim standoff was also the subject of a Border Personnel Meeting at Nathu La on June 20.
  • The Indian side has underlined that the two governments had reached an agreement in 2012 that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the countries concerned.
  • The MEA said any attempt to unilaterally determine tri-junction points violated this understanding.
  • Where the boundary in the Sikkim sector is concerned, India and China had reached another understanding in 2012, reconfirming their mutual agreement on the “basis of the alignment”.
  • Discussions on finalising the boundary have been taking place under the Special Representatives framework.

Escalating tension

India’s statement follows a report by The Times of India that India and China had deployed around 3,000 troops each on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. The Indian Army, however, had refused to comment on the matter. On Thursday, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat had visited Sikkim to review the security situation, which the military spokesperson described as routine.

Warning from China

On Thursday, China’s Defence Spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian had said that India should learn from history and stop “clamouring” for war, in reference to the 1962 Sino-Indian war that had ended with a Chinese victory. Wu had also asked New Delhi to withdraw troops from what he claimed was Chinese territory in the Sikkim sector.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, however, dismissed China’s reminder about the 1962 war. Stressing that those were “different situations”, he said the country has an agreement with Bhutan to ensure the protection in its “border region”. “The India of 2017 is different from the India of 1962,” Jaitley said at the India Today Conclave.

The comments come a day after Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat said Indian forces were prepared for internal security threats as well as to take on China and Pakistan.