A month into the standoff at Doklam, China has conveyed to foreign diplomats in Beijing that troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been waiting patiently at the plateau — China claims the Bhutanese land at the trijunction with India and calls it Donglong — but will not wait for an indefinite period, The Indian Express has learnt.
This has the diplomatic community in Beijing worried, and some have conveyed this message to their Indian counterparts in Beijing and Bhutanese counterparts in New Delhi. Last month, Indian troops blocked Chinese road works in Doklam and have since been in a faceoff with PLA troops. Beijing has been insisting that New Delhi back down.
Sources told The Indian Express that Chinese officials, at a closed-door briefing last week, conveyed their version of events to diplomats stationed in Beijing. Some of the G-20 countries have been briefed by the Chinese government separately.
“Our colleagues in Beijing attended the briefing and were given the impression that the Chinese side will not be waiting for an indefinite period. This is quite worrying, and we have conveyed it to our Indian colleagues in Beijing and Bhutanese colleagues in Delhi,” a diplomat from one of the P-5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council) countries, told The Indian Express.
The diplomatic community in Beijing has been told that the dispute is between China and Bhutan, and the Indian soldiers have “jumped in”.
“They have told our colleagues in Beijing that the Indian side has trespassed into Chinese territory and changed the status quo,” the diplomat said.
This is contrary to what India has said. In its June 30 statement, New Delhi said it is “deeply concerned” at recent Chinese actions and has conveyed to the Chinese government that such construction will represent a “significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India”.
The Chinese have told diplomats in Beijing that they have strong evidence to prove that Doklam belongs to China. They said Doklam has always been the “traditional pasture for Chinese border inhabitants” and that their archives still retain “some receipts of the grass tax paid by Bhutanese herdsmen”.
They maintained that Indian troops must pull back to the Indian side of the boundary unconditionally and immediately, which is a precondition for meaningful dialogue between China and India.
From New Delhi’s perspective, the Indian side has underlined that the two governments had reached agreement in 2012 that the trijunction boundary points between India, China and a third country will be finalised in consultation with the country concerned. “Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine trijunction points is in violation of this understanding,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in its statement.
Government sources in New Delhi maintained that efforts are underway to “de-escalate” the situation through diplomatic channels, and NSA Ajit Doval’s visit to China on July 26-27 for the meeting of BRICS NSAs will give him an opportunity to emphasise to his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, that the consensus reached between the two countries through the Special Representatives’ process be scrupulously respected by both sides.
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