The wrangling over Bhutan between China and India escalated on Monday amid accusations by Beijing that ''intrusion by Indian troops in the Sikkim sector'' is a “betrayal” of a former 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. As the war of words escalated, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang responded to Defence Minister Arun 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.
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.
'No dispute 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, that "Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquility 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. Mr.Geng said that India was using Bhutan as an excuse for “infringing on Chinese territory,” citing that initially, Thimpu was not even aware of the entry of Indian forces in the Doklam area. But in a statement on Thursday, sharply contesting the Chinese perception, the Ministry of External Affairs said that “a PLA construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. “ In its remarks. the Chinese foreign ministry accused India of infringing Bhutan’s sovereignty, “in order to cover up the illegal entry by Indian troops into Chinese territory…” Responding to the Indian statement that cited a 2012 agreement with China, which stated that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries were yet to be finalised, the spokesperson said: “We have noted [that] the statement by the Indian side evaded the 1890 convention between China and Great Britain relating to Sikkim and Tibet. But it is this convention that has confirmed the alignment of the boundary between the two sides in the Sikkim section.”
Mr.Geng pointed out that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Chinese counterpart, Zhou-en-Lai, had affirmed in two letters written in 1959 that the 1890 convention must be observed by the two sides.