Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday maintained that India is ready to counter any unforeseen situation in Doklam, which had become a potential flashpoint with China. “We are alert and ready for any unforeseen situation in Doklam. We are constantly working on the modernisation of our forces. We will maintain our territorial integrity,” Sitharaman told reporters.
Her comments came a day after Indian envoy to China Gautam Bambawale said that the Doklam crisis started because the Chinese military changed the status quo in the region. In a significant step that is being seen as an attempt to mend fences with Beijing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Qingdao in China for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on June 9-10, Bambawale has confirmed.
While it was known that Modi is likely to visit China, this is the first time the dates have been announced officially.
Sources said that Bambawale’s comments are a reaffirmation of India’s position on Doklam, despite Delhi’s outreach to Beijing on the Tibetan issue. The comments are sharply worded and make it clear that the Indian response on the border had been “political” and not just “military,” they said.
Sources told The Indian Express that the dates of PM’s visit were finalised by the PMO after the Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s visit to Beijing on February 23. Ahead of his visit, Gokhale had asked the Cabinet to order all government officials to skip events organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile as part of their “Thank you India” campaign.
Last year, Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a standoff for over two months in the Doklam region of the Sikkim sector. The face-off ended on August 28. There are reports of the Chinese military stepping up infrastructure build-up in the Doklam area, a claim which the Indian envoy has refuted.