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Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who last week claimed that there had been reduction in the number of Chinese soldiers in Doklam plateau, said on Wednesday the bonhomie between India and China had returned, even though the Army was prepared for all eventualities.
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, Rawat said he didn’t visualize any serious trouble at the northern border. “I think the bonhomie (between India and China) has returned to what was prior to the Doklam standoff, so I don’t visualize a very serious trouble. But, then one has to be prepared for it always,” he said.
The Army Chief’s remarks seem to be an extending of an olive branch to China after he had said last week that India “for too long” kept its focus on the western borders and militarily, and the focus has to shift to the northern borders” now. The remarks did not go down well with Beijing and its state media, in a stinging editorial titled ‘Indian Army must tone down hawkish rhetoric’, said, “India is diplomatically immature, with a self-centered approach and preference for impulsive nationalism”.
On Wednesday, Rawat confirmed that even though PLA soldiers were stationed in Doklam, their numbers had reduced from before. “As far as Doklam is concerned, PLA soldiers are there in a part of the area, although not in numbers that we saw them in initially. They have carried out some infrastructure development which is mostly temporary in nature,” Rawat said.
However, Rawat was skeptical about the Chinese soldiers returning back to Doklam, an area that witnessed an eye-to-eye 73-day face-off between the PLA and Indian Army last July. He said there was a possibility that they could return again after the winter. “While troops (PLA) may have returned and infrastructure remains, it is anybody’s guess whether they would come back there or is it because of the winters that they could not take their equipment, But, we are also there and in case they come, we will face them,” Rawat said.
Rawat had also earned the ire of China after he said last week that Doklam was a disputed territory between Bhutan and China. Hitting out at the Army chief, China on Monday stated his “unconstructive” comments were not helpful for maintaining peace at the borders. “Donglang belongs to China and has always been in the effective jurisdiction of China,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
Elaborating on the process that the military of both the nations have engaged in to pipe down tensions after the Doklam row, Rawat said, “Mechanisms that we have of defusing tensions between our two countries are working very well and after Doklam we’ve started our Border Personnel Meeting. We are meeting regularly, exchanges are taking place and communication between commanders at ground level is on,” he said.