Why China changes the status quo in border?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan
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Intruding into the borders of India and Bhutan and claiming as their own as become a behaviour for China every now and then. As already China’s multi-million CPEC project with Pakistan invited wide criticism from India for passing through the disputed area, now they seemed to claim the area surrounding India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, raising concerns about their respect towards the sovereignty and relations with its neighbours….reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan

Despite Beijing’s provocative act of trying to build a motorable road in the Doklam area of Bhutan, close to the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, New Delhi is handling the issue in a reserved manner so that the Himalayan kingdom does not come under any sort of pressure, it is reliably learnt.

Bhutan has officially protested to China following this act but Beijing has claimed that the Doklam region is Chinese territory and Indian soldiers entering there is a violation of China’s territorial integrity and called for their pullout.

On June 16, a fairly large People’s Liberation Army (PLA) construction party entered the Doklam area accompanied by earth movers and construction equipment and came all the way to a place called Turning Point. While Chinese incursions in the tri-junction area are not out of the ordinary, what was different this time was the rolling in of the earth movers and construction equipment.

Seeing this, personnel of a Bhutan Army camp posted on a ridge at a place called Zompelri rushed down and confronted the Chinese and told them that they cannot unilaterally change the existing status quo in the tri-junction.

Indian Army personnel, who were present in the general area Doka La in Sikkim on the other side, too rushed to the spot to help the Bhutanese soldiers. However, by that time the PLA had pushed back the Bhutanese and then came to a face-to-face situation with the Indian Army personnel.

The Indian soldiers too made it clear to the Chinese soldiers that they had no business changing the existing unilateral status quo in the tri-junction.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan

There is no Chinese territory between India’s border in the Sikkim sector with Bhutan.

India and China had in 2012 reached an agreement that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries. Both the countries share three international tri-junctions – with Bhutan, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Bhutan too has written agreements with China of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo as before March 1959.

Following the June 16 incident, Bhutan officially lodged a protest at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on June 20. Beijing and Thimphu do not share diplomatic ties.

The matter also came up for discussion at a border personnel meeting (BPM) between India and China at Nathu La in Sikkim on June 20.

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally receives the Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in Goa on October 16, 2016. (Photo: IANS/PIB) by .
Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally receives the Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in Goa (Photo: IANS/PIB)

On Thursday, the Bhutanese Foreign Ministry issued a press release which stated Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was in direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.

“Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before June 16,” the statement said.

Though the June 16 incident is being seen as forcing India’s hand to change the status quo in the tri-junction, it is understood that New Delhi has been approaching the matter in a reserved manner so that Bhutan does not come under pressure despite the fact that the road being constructed near Indian defence lines posed serious security implications.

The External Affairs Ministry in a statement on Friday said that India has taken up the matter with China at the diplomatic level both in New Delhi and Beijing.

China too on Friday indicated that it was open for talks with India, saying a “meaningful dialogue” over the border stand-off is the “pressing issue”.

Thimpu: Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat meets Bhutan King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck at Tashi Chhodzong Palace in Thimpu on April 28, 2017. (Photo: IANS/PIB) by .
Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat meets Bhutan King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck at Tashi Chhodzong Palace in Thimpu (Photo: IANS/PIB)

This is a climbdown for Beijing which earlier ruled out any talks until India withdrew its troops from “Chinese territory”.

This should come as some relief for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra pilgrims as China had stopped Indians from taking the Nathu La route of the annual pilgrimage following the June 16 incident.

What has come as a surprise is that the June 16 incident happened just over a week after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

It is understood to have been a warm meeting regarding the future of the bilateral relationship with Xi accepting that it was in the interest of both India and China to have stable ties.

But whether the border standoff was Beijing’s attempt at regional muscle-flexing 10 days ahead of what turned out to be Modi’s extremely successful meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington is anybody’s guess.