New Delhi: Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on Wednesday said the military face-off on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan ended after India recalled its troops and asked New Delhi to “learn lessons" to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
Briefing reporters in Beijing ahead of next week’s Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) meeting in Xiamen, Wang also sought to put a positive spin on ties with India—talking of the huge potential for cooperation between the Asian giants—ahead of a possible meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi following their most serious military confrontation in decades.
The seemingly contradictory remarks come just days after India and China on Monday announced a pullback of their troops stationed on Doklam plateau since the confrontation began on 16 June. They also came a day after Modi’s attendance at the summit was confirmed by the Indian foreign ministry.
“The border face-off caused by Indian trespassing has been settled," Wang told reporters in Beijing in answer to a question from the Chinese media on reports that India withdrew troops to provide a face-saver to China after reaching a settlement.
According to “authoritative information" with the Chinese government, Indian troops withdrew from the area on the afternoon of 28 August which ended the standoff, Wang said. “That is a basic fact and of course, we hope that the Indian side will learn lessons from this incident and prevent similar things from happening again," he said.
While announcing the disengagement of troops from Doklam on Monday, New Delhi did not indicate whether Indian troops had withdrawn first or whether both sides stepped back together. India had objected to Chinese personnel constructing a road on the plateau despite Bhutan’s protests, sparking the standoff.
There was no immediate comment from the Indian foreign ministry to Wang’s comments.
About differences between the two countries, Wang said it was natural that the two Asian neighbours would have problems between them.
“What is important is that we put these differences at the appropriate place and under the principle of mutual respect and following the consensus of our leaders, we need to handle and manage them properly," Wang said. “In the meantime, with our engagement through different mechanisms, we need to work out a solution in the long run."
“We hope China and India will join hands and work together for the rejuvenation of Asia and for the development of our region and contribute our share to greater development," Wang added later.
The Chinese minister did not give a direct reply to whether there would be meeting between Modi and Xi next week.
“On the sidelines of the BRICS meeting, Xi will also have meetings with some leaders upon their request. Once relevant arrangements are decided we will let you know. The first thing is whether the leaders will have the willingness to meet. If there is willingness of the leaders’ participating in the meeting, as a host Chinese side will try to make it possible if our schedule programme permits," the minister said.