New Delhi: India on Thursday signalled that there could only be a diplomatic solution to a military standoff with China on Bhutan’s Doklam plateau that has lasted more than a month in the face of repeated provocation from Beijing.
Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj advocated patience in India’s handling of the standoff with China, stating that war was not a solution to the border dispute.
The minister was responding to a debate in the upper house of Parliament on “India’s foreign policy and engagement with strategic partners" during which members of Parliament (MPs) expressed concern over the Doklam standoff and raised questions over India’s diplomatic initiatives in its neighbourhood.
Swaraj’s response also came on a day when China said India should show through deeds its willingness to maintain peace along the India-China border while accusing India of amassing troops along the border.
“Patience is key to resolving problems because if patience is lost, the other side can get provoked. We will keep patience to resolve the issue," she said referring to the standoff. “We will keep engaging with China to resolve the dispute," she said, adding that military readiness was always there as the armed forces were meant to fight wars.
“But war cannot resolve problems. So wisdom says to resolve problems diplomatically. Because once war is over, the victor and the loser have to sit across the table and talk. So good sense says that we get into a dialogue without war," Swaraj said, adding that a solution can be found through patience, control over language and diplomacy.
The standoff at Doklam began when China started constructing a road in the area. India objected to the road construction after Chinese troops ignored Bhutanese protests, triggering the faceoff from 16 June.
Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognizes as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. Of the 3,488km India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220km section falls in Sikkim—situated across Dokalam. India and China have a dispute over their boundaries dating back to the 1962 war and are in talks to resolve their differences.
Swaraj’s response on Thursday came a day after China issued a 15-page fact sheet with maps and other details about the standoff. It said on 18 June about 270 Indian troops entered more than 100 metres into Chinese territory to “obstruct the road building of the Chinese side, causing tension in the area."
“As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory," it said adding that the standoff occurred in an area where there is a clear and delimited boundary. “This makes it fundamentally different from past frictions between the border troops of the two sides," it said.
In her response, Swaraj noted that special representatives on the boundary dispute in their talks in December 2012 had agreed that tri-junction points like Dokolam at the borders of India, China and Bhutan would be finalized in consultation with the third country. Since 2012, there had been no talks on tri-junction points like Dokolam between India and China.
The minister said that China’s economic engagement with India currently totalled $160 billion in 2017. “They have a big stake in India," she said, explaining that when the two countries discuss problems like Dokolam, the entire relationship including the economic engagement needed to be taken into perspective.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said a large number of Indian troops had congregated at the Indian side the boundary, according to a Press Trust of India report,
“No matter how many Indian border troops illegally trespassed the boundary and still stay in the Chinese territory, it will not alter the nature of severely violating China’s territorial integrity and contravening the UN Charter. This incident is illegal under the international law," Geng said.