Nearly 50 days into the border stand-off at Doklam, China claimed on Wednesday that the number of Indian soldiers at the site, east of Sikkim, has come down from over 400 to around 40. But Indian government sources maintained that there were about 350 of its soldiers in the area and that there has been no change in the number. A 15-page statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Delhi claimed that authorities in China had “notified” their Indian counterparts about the road construction at Doklam, which led to the stand-off. Again, this is contrary to India’s stance that a PLA construction party had entered the Doklam area on June 16, without notification, and attempted to work on a road.
In the statement, China has also demanded a troop withdrawal by India, and a probe into the alleged trespassing by Indian soldiers. Speaking to The Indian Express, official government sources said that there has been no change in the number of Indian soldiers deployed in Doklam area from the beginning of the standoff. Nearly 350 Indian soldiers are deployed at a distance from around 300 Chinese soldiers near Doka La, sources said.
Responding officially to the Chinese statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “India’s position on this issue and related facts have been articulated in our press statement of June 30. India considers that peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas is an important prerequisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations with China.” It did not respond to the points raised in the Chinese statement.
On troop numbers, the 15-page statement stated in the second paragraph: “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 metres 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 metres 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.”
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The Chinese statement claimed that it had notified India “in advance” about the construction and that the “Dong Lang area is Chinese territory”. It described the Indian action as “a real attempt to change the status quo of the boundary” and, that it “gravely undermined peace and tranquility of the China-India border area”. However, by sticking to its statement on June 30, New Delhi has implied that there was no notification from the Chinese side.
In the 15th and last paragraph of its statement, the Chinese made a new demand that besides troop withdrawal, the Indian side should also thoroughly investigate into the illegal trespassing by its own soldiers. The statement also includes a copy of the 1890 convention between Britain and China, and maps and photographs purportedly showing Indian troops’ alleged “trespass”, and excerpts from Chinese Premier Chou En-lei’s letters to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
In its June 30 statement, the Indian side underlined that the two governments had in 2012 reached an agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries (in this case, Bhutan) will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries. “Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding,” it had said.