For the first time since the start of the border standoff between India and China at the trijunction with Bhutan, New Delhi on Thursday spelt out its demand that both countries withdraw their troops from the faceoff point on the Doklam plateau. Beijing has been asking India to withdraw its troops before any talks while India has maintained that the issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.
This redline by New Delhi sets the stage for a possible conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi when they meet at the meeting of the NSAs from BRICS countries on July 27 and 28. Sources told The Indian Express that the demand — articulated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Parliament Thursday — has been conveyed to the Chinese side through diplomatic channels.
Answering questions in Rajya Sabha, Swaraj said, “Agar Chin unilaterally us trijunction point ke status quo ko badal deta hai, toh phir seedhe seedhe hamari suraksha ko chunauti hoti hai… unki maang yeh hai ki hum apni senayein wahan se withdraw kar lein… hum yeh chahate hain ki agar samvaad chal raha hai ki agar baithkar koi baat-cheet karni hai, toh dono apni apni senayein hatayein. Bharat ki taraf se koi bhi unreasonable baat nahin ho rahi hai.”
(“If China unilaterally changes the status quo at the trijunction point, then that is a direct challenge to our security. Their demand is that we should withdraw our troops from there. We want that, if we are having a conversation, if we want to have talks, then both should withdraw their armies. From our side, there is no unreasonable demand.”)
On June 30, the Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, said that India has consistently taken a positive approach to the settlement of its own boundary with China, along with the associated issue of the trijunction points. “India is committed to working with China to find peaceful resolution of all issues in the border areas through dialogue,” the statement had said.
Swaraj told Rajya Sabha members that there was a written agreement between India and China in 2012 that the three countries (India, China and Bhutan) will together decide the boundaries at the trijunction point.
She said the boundary between India and China is yet to be finalised and the two countries will do that bilaterally through discussions, while the same between China and Bhutan too will be done through bilateral talks.
Unlike previous occasions when China would keep constructing “pucca, semi-pucca and dirt roads”, she said that this time China came with “bulldozers and excavators” to build the road, which was protested by Bhutan in writing to China.
Swaraj said “their (China’s) intention was to reach the trijunction so that they can unilaterally end the status of the trijunction. It was only then that India came into the picture”. On the standoff, she said all nations were on India’s side. “India’s position is not wrong on the trijunction and all nations are with it,” she said.
Gopal Baglay, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, pointed out that Beijing had also said on Thursday that “diplomatic channels have been unimpeded”, and that it should be left to diplomats to deal with the situation.