New Delhi: The 73-day standoff between India and China over Doklam was resolved through “diplomatic maturity without losing any ground" and status quo has been maintained since Indian troops pulled back, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament on Wednesday.
The minister’s remarks come amid reports of a Chinese troop buildup in the region as well as reports that the Chinese are improving infrastructure at the site that was at the centre of last year’s face-off, considered the most serious between the two countries since 1987. According to India, Chinese presence at the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan and the road construction could impact its security—endanger connectivity between the North-East and the rest of India.
The standoff was triggered by China saying it was constructing a road within its territory. This was disputed by India, which said that the site of the Chinese road construction was Bhutanese territory.
“We have resolved the Doklam issue with diplomatic maturity without losing any ground. There is no change in the status quo (on the ground). There is not an iota of change. The face-off has been resolved on 28 August 2017," she said during question hour in Parliament.
An informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in April was held without any agenda and without having any objective to discuss any specific issue, Swaraj said.
“The decision to host Wuhan was taken not to resolve any issue but to create a conducive environment. Three main objectives were to ensure mutual comfort, mutual understanding and mutual trust. In all the three objectives, we have achieved success," she said.
The informal summit was an “innovative format" for leaders to engage and it enabled Modi and Xi to hold direct, free and candid exchanges on issues of long-term and strategic significance, without the constrains of protocol including a set agenda. The informal setting helped the two leaders forge a common understanding on the future course of India-China relations and to create the conditions for the two sides to deal with their differences constructively, she said.
It was in Wuhan that India and China agreed “to handle the differences through peaceful discussion within the context of the overall relationship, bearing in mind the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations."
To build on the understanding reached at the Wuhan summit, the Chinese defence minister would visit India this month, to enhance military cooperation while the foreign minister will arrive later this year as part of efforts to enhance the people-to-people contact, Swaraj said.
Responding to a question on India’s position on the South China Sea—claimed by China almost completely as also by several countries in Southeast Asia including the Philippines—Swaraj said India was of the view that the international sea route should be free for navigation.
“There should be freedom of navigation. Our stand on South China Sea is clear that there should be freedom of navigation and all international laws should be adhered to," she said.
The Congress, however, seemed unconvinced by Swaraj’s responses in Parliament, with chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala dismissing the minister’s statement as “misleading".
“Swaraj’s statement on #Dokolam is covered with a ‘sheet of misleading opaqueness’ & fails to provide the larger picture of Chinese presence in Doklam," Surjewala said. “As at the ‘Siliguri Corridor’—‘Gateway to India’s NE’, Modi Govt nearly ducks the Doklam question!" Surjewala tweeted.