In a fresh warning to India, Chinese state media People’s Daily has said that India should not underestimate China’s resolve to defend its territorial sovereignty. The warning was issued in a commentary carrying a byline of Zhong Sheng. The daily alleged that Indian border troops had crossed the China-India boundary in the Sikkim sector into Chinese territory and that it was totally illegal. It said China will take “all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests.”.
On August 2, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued an official document titled ‘The Facts and China’s Position Concerning the Indian Border Troops’ Crossing of the China-India Boundary in the Sikkim Sector into the Chinese Territory’ giving its side of the story.
It alleged that Indian troops were illegally staying in Chinese territory after illegally crossing the border on June 18. Nonetheless, the daily didn’t acknowledge that the area in question is disputed between Bhutan and China, and China had moved to disrupt the status quo, thereby violating a 2012 agreement between India and China. The agreement was regarding tri-party discussion in issues related to tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries like the one in Doklam.
The article said that what India did can be defined as illegal and that it aims at nothing but making trouble. The daily cited a convention signed between Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet and said that according to that convention, Doklam was indisputably Chinese territory.
It alleged that India invented excuses to justify illegal action since the incident of border crossing broke out while also calling India’s security concerns over China’s road-building activity as ill-founded.
It said that India’s claim that Doklam is a disputed area between China and Bhutan is against the truth and the law. “The Doklam area has all along been part of China and under China’s continuous and effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard,” it said, adding that India had no right as a third party in the equation to make territorial claims on behalf of Bhutan. Although, taking the same liberty it said that India’s position posed a challenge the sovereignty and independence of Bhutan.
It said that “the rhetoric that India upheld, namely that China and India have been in discussions on making the boundary in the Sikkim Sector an “early harvest” which proves the area is disputed, is a sophistry.” While it admitted that both sides were in discussion for making the Sikkim Sector boundary an early harvest in the entire boundary settlement, it reiterated the current position on the 1890 convention. It said that “China and India ought to sign a new boundary convention in their own names to replace the 1890 Convention.”
It went on to say that “since the incident occurred, China has sought to communicate with India through diplomatic channels to resolve the incident. But no country should ever underestimate the resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty”, adding, “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests.”
The Doklam stand-off startedin mid-June when India accused China of constructing a road in the disputed territory towards Doklam Plateau. It was an objection raised also by the Royal Bhutanese Army. Doklam is essentially a tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan. The road construction work by the Chinese in the area posed a security crisis in the region. India took an intervening stand and helped Bhutan’s position. The Indian Army asked the Chinese to halt the construction work in the area to which China retaliated with an argument that Doklam was an undisputed Chinese territory. A standoff ensued between the Indian and Chinese border troops. Soon, both sides started sending reinforcements and increasing the military deployment to prepare for armed conflict.
The standoff has continued and the situation between the two countries remains tense. China has repeatedly demanded India to withdraw its forces from the region and claiming it is prepared to do everything necessary to defend its territorial sovereignty. India, meanwhile, maintains that the Chinese construction work was done without consultation with Bhutan thereby changing the status quo and violating the understanding on tri-junction boundary points.