India and China have been locked in a prolonged standoff in the area in the Sikkim sector since June 16 after Chinese troops began constructing a road near the Bhutan Tri-junction.
Bhutan has protested to China, saying the area belonged to it and accused Beijing of violating agreements that aim to maintain the status quo until the boundary dispute is resolved. India says the Chinese action to construct the road was unilateral and changes the status quo.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly asked senior civilian and military leaders to tone down the rhetoric on China, ahead of his visit to Beijing in September for this year’s BRICS summit.
In line with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s stress on patience, restraint and diplomacy to resolve the Dokalam standoff, India on Friday refused to be drawn into a tit-for-tat with Beijing, saying New Delhi wanted peace and tranquillity at the border and would achieve this objective through diplomacy.
Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognizes as Dokalam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. Of the 3,488km India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim,situated across Dokalam.
Compared to the barrage of angry statements emanating from China over the standoff with India, the Indian government seems calm and measured, it has offered few comments on its own and almost none in response to the daily comment from the Chinese side.
New Delhi’s response to the Dokalam stand off ,at the trijunction of India, China and Bhutan,so far has included moving some additional troops to the border, a statement by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and some low-key remarks by her ministry.
Bhutan’s ambassador to India, Major-General V Namgyal told sources that “the road construction by the Chinese Army was ‘progressing toward’ a camp of the Royal Bhutan Army at Zom Pelri” and that his government had told the Chinese side that this construction “is not in keeping with the agreements between China and Bhutan ,on resolution of their boundary.”
Ambassador also stated,”Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the area.”
The bilateral relations between the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and India have been traditionally close and both countries share a special relationship. India remains influential over Bhutan’s foreign policy, defence and commerce.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Bhutan as his first foreign destination, placing regional co-operation before global co-operation. While talking about the visit, Modi said that Bhutan was a “natural choice” for his first foreign destination because of the “unique and special relationship” the two countries shared. He added that he was looking forward to nurture and further strengthen India’s special relations with Bhutan.
In 2007, the then existing treaty, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which was signed on August 8, 1949, in Darjeeling, was superseded by a new friendship treaty that replaced the provision that made it mandatory for Bhutan to take India’s guidance on foreign policy, providing broader sovereignty to Bhutan and not requiring it to obtain India’s permission over arms imports
Article 2 of the 2007 Friendship Treaty signed by India and Bhutan in 2007 states, “In keeping with the abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India, the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests.”
India and Bhutan voluntarily still maintain very strong comprehensive ties, parts of which are focused at mutually countering aggression from China. Bhutan has no diplomatic ties with China.
On June 20, though not made public until early July, the Bhutan government issued a formal diplomatic demarche to Beijing via the New Delhi Chinese embassy, protesting China’s incursion into its territory and sought India’s help under the friendship treaty against Chinese incursion.
India charges that China has violated this ‘peace agreement’ by trying to construct roads in Doklam.
The aspects of tri-junction points and India-China boundary alignment in the Sikkim sector had been earlier addressed in a written common understanding reached between the SRs of India and China on the boundary question in December 2012, when then national security advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon was India’s SR.
Point 13 of the common understanding states that “the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries”. Since 2012, India and China have not held any discussion on the tri-junction with Bhutan.
The Chinese action in the Doklam area is, therefore, an attempt to bilaterally (Bhutan) address the issue, bypassing India in violation of Point 13 of the written common understanding.
The state-run Chinese media, Global Times, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of pushing India into war and “gambling” with the destiny of its people.
However, it not just India that claims that China is misrepresenting facts to suits its interests in this region. Key members of the international community are of the opinion that India has adhered to the rule of law and international convention in Dokalam standoff. “China is trying to rewrite international rules from South China Sea to Dokalam. India’s position is based on principle and adherence to international law,” said a senior Western official on the condition of anonymity.
In his remarks, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was addressing a ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing said: “We will never allow any people, organisation or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form.”
“The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions,” Xi said.
Despite China raising the ante over the Doklam stand-off, India has maintained that it will continue to engage with Beijing diplomatically to resolve the border standoff and that war is not a solution.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the ancient Indian concept of “Tarka Shastra” ,debate, is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict.
It is only natural that the search for answers be led by the humanity’s longest traditions of thought, rooted in various religions, civilizations, and multiple streams of spirituality, he said.
Giving examples of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha and Bhakta Prahlada, he said the purpose of each of their actions was to uphold ‘dharma’ (duty), which has sustained Indians from ancient to modern times.
Talking about the environment, he said man must relate to nature and revere it and not merely consider it a resource to be exploited. If man does not nurture nature, then nature reacts in the form of climate change.”
Dialogue is the only way to cut through deep-rooted religious stereotypes and prejudices that divide communities across the world and sow seeds of conflict between nations and societies, Modi said on Saturday.
“Our stand is that we maintain restraint in language and keep patience and engage in diplomacy. No solution will be gained out of war because even after war, talks are required. A solution cannot be derived out of war,” India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament on Thursday.