India counters Chinese claim of troop cut in Doklam border standoff

A Chinese soldier next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state.
A Chinese soldier next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Peace and tranquility in the border areas between India and China is an important prerequisite for smooth development of bilateral relations, said top Indian officials on Wednesday (Aug 2), after having closely examined a 15-page statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the Doklam standoff.

The officials also countered claims by China that India has reduced the number of troops from 400 to 40 by the end of July in Doklam, where the troops from the two countries are involved in a standoff for nearly two months since June, according to The Statesman newspaper.

The Chinese statement said that on June 18, nearly 270 Indian troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim sector at the Doklam pass and "advanced more than 100 metres into the Chinese territory to obstruct the building of a road the Chinese side, causing tension in the area".

"In addition to the two bulldozers, the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 metres into the Chinese territory," it claimed.

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"As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory," the Chinese document said.

In a brief response to the Chinese statement, the official spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry said: "India's position on this issue and related facts have been articulated in our press statement of June 30."

 
 
 
 

Sources said India's stand had also been clearly articulated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Parliament last month (July) that both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, The Statesman reported.

Sources clarified that it had nearly 350 troops at Doklam when the standoff at Doklam began in mid-June. China also had almost the same number of its soldiers there.

There had been no reduction in the number of Indian troops as was claimed by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. In fact, one battalion of the Indian Army was in the Sikkim area especially to assist the Indian troops at Doklam, should the need arise, The Statesman reported.

It is now clear that National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval's mission to Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi to resolve the standoff did not bear any result.

China said it had conveyed its firm stand to India that it must take "concrete actions" by immediately pulling back troops from Doklam with "no strings attached" to resolve the standoff.

Providing details of the July 28 meeting between Mr Doval and Mr Yang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying that the Chinese official conveyed to the Indian NSA Beijing's stern positions and explicit requirements on the "trespass" of Indian troops into the Chinese territory.

Mr Yang held a bilateral meeting with Mr Doval "at his request", the ministry said.