NEW DELHI: China says in a position paper on Doklam released on Wednesday that India has moved out its soldiers at Doklam ,leaving only 40 of the 400 posted there by the end of July. Even as it insisted that even these 40 “trespassing soldiers” should be withdrawn, India has vehemently denied the claim saying that there has been no such withdrawal of troops.
Interestingly ‘end of July’ coincides with the visit of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Beijing. The Chinese official media had hardened its position just before the visit with the Global Times describing the Indian NSA as a “schemer”, maintaining that bilateral meetings might not be possible until and unless India withdraws its troops from Doklam. Bilateral meetings were cleared however, after Doval arrived in Beijing although neither side had anything substantial to report either just before or after the interactions.
Since the terrain is accessible only to the Armies of both countries, independent verification of these claims now is impossible by the media although for the record even the Chinese have spoken only of a large reduction in numbers, and not a complete withdrawal by India. The position papeer states, “the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 meters into the Chinese territory. As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory.”
But while this issue will no doubt invite generate some controversy on both sides at least through the media, China followed on Doval’s visit to Beijing for the the BRICS meeting with a comprehensive position paper on Doklam (referred to by the Chinese as Dong Lang) that spells out its position in detail. China makes it very clear that India is trespassing into Chinese territory, that the other country involved is only Bhutan with whom China is in talks, and whose sovereignty India is infringing.
In a nutshell China’s position as in its own words is:
- The Dong Lang area (Doklam) is located in Yadong county of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It borders India's Sikkim state on the west and the Kingdom of Bhutan on the south. According to the Convention Between Great Britain and China on Sikkim and Tibet , the Dong Lang area, which is located on the Chinese side of the boundary, is indisputably Chinese territory. For long, China's border troops have been patrolling the area and Chinese herdsmen grazing livestock there. At present, the boundary between the Dong Lang area and Sikkim is a part of the China-India boundary in the Sikkim Sector.
- On 16 June 2017, the Chinese side was building a road in the Dong Lang area. On 18 June, over 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim Sector at the Duo Ka La (Doka La) pass and advanced more than 100 meters into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road building of 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 meters into the Chinese territory.
- As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory.
- On 19 June, the Chinese side made prompt and serious representations with the Indian side through diplomatic channels to strongly protest and condemn the illegal trespass by the Indian side and demand the immediate withdrawal of the trespassing Indian border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary.
- China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defense and the Chinese Embassy in India made serious representations with India for multiple times in Beijing and New Delhi, strongly urging India to respect China's territorial sovereignty and immediately pull back its trespassing border troops.
- Since 18 June, the Indian border troops have illegally crossed the China-India boundary in the Sikkim Sector and entered the Chinese territory. This is an undeniable fact.
- The incident occurred in an area where there is a clear and delimited boundary. This makes it fundamentally different from past frictions between the border troops of the two sides in areas with delimited boundary.
- The Indian border troops' crossing of the already delimited boundary is a very serious incident, as it violates China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, contravenes the 1890 Convention and the UN Charter, and tramples grossly on the basic principles of international law and basic norms governing international relations.
- Since the incident broke out, India has invented various excuses to justify its illegal action, but its arguments have no factual or legal grounds at all and are simply untenable.
- The China-India boundary in the Sikkim Sector has already been delimited, and the Dong Lang area is Chinese territory. China's road building on its own territory is aimed at improving local transportation, which is completely lawful and legitimate. China did not cross the boundary in its road building, and it notified India in advance in full reflection of China' s goodwill.
- The Indian border troops have flagrantly crossed the mutually-recognized boundary to intrude into the Chinese territory and violated China' s territorial sovereignty. This is indeed a real attempt to change the status quo of the boundary, and it has gravely undermined peace and tranquility of the China-India border area.
- India has cited "serious security implications" of China's road building as a justification for its illegal crossing of the boundary. According to UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 adopted on 14 December 1974, no consideration of whatsoever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State.
- To cross a delimited boundary and enter the territory of a neighboring country on the grounds of so-called "security concerns", for whatever activities, runs counter to the basic principles of international law and basic norms governing international relations. No such attempt will be tolerated by any sovereign State, still less should it be the normal way of conduct between China and India as two neighboring States.
- Over the years, Indian troops have constructed a large number of infrastructure facilities including roads at the Duo Ka La pass and its nearby areas on the Indian side of the boundary, and even built fortifications and other military installations on the boundary. China, on the contrary, has only had very little infrastructure built on its side of the boundary in the same sector.
- In recent years, Indian border troops have also obstructed the normal patrols along the boundary by Chinese border troops, and attempted to build military installations across the boundary. In response, Chinese border troops lodged repeated protests and took lawful actions to dismantle the facilities installed by the Indian military on the Chinese side of the boundary.
- The fact of the matter is it is India that has attempted time and again to change the status quo of the China-India boundary in the Sikkim Sector, which poses a grave security threat to China.
- The Dong Lang area has all along been part of China and under China's continuous and effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard. Since the 1980s, China and Bhutan, as two independent sovereign States, have been engaged in negotiations and consultations to resolve their boundary issue. The two sides have, so far, had 24 rounds of talks and reached broad consensus.Although the boundary is yet to be formally delimited, the two sides have conducted joint surveys in their border area and have basic consensus on the actual state of the border area and the alignment of their boundary.
- The China-Bhutan boundary issue is one between China and Bhutan. It has nothing to do with India. As a third party, India has no right to interfere in or impede the boundary talks between China and Bhutan, still less the right to make territorial claims on Bhutan's behalf. India's intrusion into the Chinese territory under the pretext of Bhutan has not only violated China's territorial sovereignty but also challenged Bhutan's sovereignty and independence.
- China and Bhutan are friendly neighbors. China has all along respected Bhutan's sovereignty and independence. Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, the border area between China and Bhutan has always enjoyed peace and tranquility. China will continue to work with Bhutan to resolve the boundary issue between the two countries through negotiations and consultations in the absence of external interference.
- China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests. The incident took place on the Chinese side of the delimited boundary. India should immediately and unconditionally withdraw its trespassing border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary. This is a prerequisite and basis for resolving the incident.
There is no give in the paper, only a clear position that India has to withdraw all troops, go back to the agreements it has with China, and not interfere in what is essentially a matter between Bhutan and China. The Indian response to this is still awaited, with the only denial so far being that New Delhi has not withdrawn its troops from Doklam.
(Cover Photograph: A photograph in the Chinese position paper that it claims is “On-the-Scene Photo I Showing the Indian Troops' Trespass”)