China on Friday justified its massive construction activities in the Doklam area and asked India not to comment on its “legitimate” infrastructure development in its sovereign territory. China’s reaction came amid reports that it was building a huge military complex close to the site of the Doklam standoff with India.
Asked about reports citing satellite imagery of a Chinese military complex in the area, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “I have also noted the relevant report. I don’t know who offered such kind of photos.” But he said he did not have detailed information on it.
The reports raised concerns that China may be preparing for another standoff with India. Lu, however, said: “China’s position on the Donglong (Doklam) area is quite clear. Donglong always belonged to China and (was) always under China’s effective jurisdiction.
There is no dispute in this regard,” he said, asserting Chinese sovereignty over the area which is also claimed by Bhutan. “It is legitimate and justified. Just as China will not make comments on India’s construction of infrastructure in India’s territory, we hope other countries will not make comments on China’s construction of infrastructure in its own territory,” he said.
He said China is building infrastructure for its troops and the people living in the area. “In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure including roads in the Donglong (Doklam) area,” Lu said. He said China was exercising sovereignty in its own territory.
Asked about concerns that China is preparing for a second standoff at Doklam area, he said Indian troops’ intervention to stop construction of a key road close to the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ corridor of India, has put bilateral ties to severe test. Last year, Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a standoff for over two months in the Doklam area near Sikkim, before “disengaging” on August 28.
In an apparent reference to Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s recent remarks that Doklam is a disputed territory between China and Bhutan, Lu said: “The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border… This incident has put bilateral relations to… severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident from happening again.”
Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said, “Actually, during the summit, the two leaders reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and charting the course for future development… We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction, jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations.”
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said India and China have established mechanisms which they use to resolve any “misunderstanding”, adding that it was keeping a “constant vigil” on the situation in Doklam.
Responding to questions on reports of Chinese military build-up in the area, MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar referred to the ministry’s statement on Thursday that “the status quo at the faceoff site has not been altered… any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous.”
“We are of course keeping a constant vigil on developments which have a bearing on India’s national security and taking all necessary steps to safeguard it. The two sides do have, and have used established mechanisms to resolve any misunderstanding,” said Kumar.
(With inputs from Express News Service in New Delhi)