NEW DELHI: The China-India border standoff got shriller on Monday as Beijing accused Indian troops of intrusion across their disputed border and betrayal of a colonial era agreement it claimed to have been endorsed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Hindu quoted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as responding sharply to a barb from Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley who said on Sunday that India was better prepared than it was in 1962 when it suffered a defeat in a short war with its neighbour.

Referring to “intrusion by Indian troops in the Sikkim sector”, the Chinese called it a “betrayal” of a colonial era understanding of the boundary alignment in this area.

In a shriller tone demanding the “pullback on Indian forces” from the Doklam area, where there has been a military standoff, the Chinese foreign ministry accused New Delhi of virtually manipulating Bhutan to “distort facts,” and engineering a “cover-up” for the “illegal entry” of its forces in its territory, The Hindu said from Beijing.

As the war of words escalated, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang responded to Mr Jaitley’s remarks that “India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962”, saying “China too is different and will take all necessary measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.”

The Chinese allege that Indian troops have breached New Delhi’s well recorded position of abiding by the 1890 British era convention defining the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, The Hindu said.

Besides, the boundary between China and Bhutan — a country with which India has special ties — has not been settled, despite 24 rounds of negotiations that began in the 1980s between Beijing and Thimpu.

Asked to comment on breaching an understanding with Bhutan on maintaining the status quo in areas of dispute, Mr Geng denied that there was a dispute between Beijing and Thimpu in the Doklam area, on the tri-junction of China, India and Bhutan.

“Chinese side has been stressing that Doklam belongs to China. It is under the effective jurisdiction of China and it is without any dispute. The boundary between the two countries is yet to be defined but the two sides have a consensus on the alignment of the boundary. Regarding that Doklam belongs to China, the two sides have no dispute over that. Doklam has always been under the effective jurisdiction of China,” he said.

Mr Geng’s remarks sharply contradict the assertion by Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, The Hindu said. It quoted the envoy as saying: “Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the area.”

The current border tension was triggered by the construction of a road by China in the Doklam area. New Delhi has maintained that the road construction will threaten its national security.

Analysts say that if built, the road will provide China further access to the Chumbi Valley, adding to the vulnerability of the “Chicken’s Neck”, a narrow corridor that links the Northeast with the rest of India.

Mr Geng stressed that China would work with Bhutan on the bilateral track, without the interference of any “external forces”— an obvious reference to India.

Official sources told The Hindu that China’s moves in Bhutan were in tune with its growing political profile in South Asia that included Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2017



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