India, China face off over Doklam amid bid to ease tensions

Beijing: China and India were caught up in an unexpected exchange of words on Monday over their 73-day military standoff at Doklam in Bhutan after weeks of what seemed like efforts by both sides to put a lid on tensions and move towards engagement, culminating in a possible high-level Chinese visit to India later this year.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the Doklam plateau belongs to China, and India should have “learnt lessons” from the standoff last year. This came after India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, said the Doklam standoff took place as a consequence of Beijing trying to alter the status quo in the region.

“Donglong (Doklam) belongs to China because we have historical conventions,” Hua was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India. “China’s activities there are within our sovereign rights. There is no such thing as changing status quo.”

“Last year, thanks to our concerted efforts and our wisdom we properly resolved this issue. We hope the Indian side could learn some lessons from this and stick to the historical conventions and work with China to ensure the atmosphere in the border areas is conducive for the development of bilateral ties,” she said in Beijing.

Tensions between the Asian giants rose in June after Bhutan objected to an attempt by Chinese troops to build a road on the Doklam plateau. Indian troops stationed in Bhutan under a special security arrangement intervened to keep Chinese troops at bay. India said the action to construct the road changed the status quo and expressed concern that the road will allow China to cut off access to North-eastern states.

On Saturday, Bambawale in an interview to the South China Morning Post said political communication between India and China had been restored after the Doklam crisis but communications between their militaries “has not fully resumed,” according to a report on the newspaper’s website.

He said that the dispute originated because China “altered the status quo” in the region, adding that both sides should refrain from doing so in future to maintain peace and stability.

The sharp exchange comes as India and China are looking at an exchange of visits to calm tensions and stabilize ties. Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Beijing in February. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to visit China in April as is foreign minister Sushma Swaraj with the latter attending a meeting of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).livemint


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