In a rebuff, Bhutan refutes China’s claims on Doko La road construction

Its Ambassador V. Namgyal says the area under construction definitely “lies in an area of dispute.”

Updated - December 03, 2021 04:53 pm IST

Published - June 28, 2017 06:14 pm IST - New Delhi

In this file picture, Indian vehicles enter China through Nathu La pass on May 2, 2007.

In this file picture, Indian vehicles enter China through Nathu La pass on May 2, 2007.

Bhutan has refuted Beijing's contention that it (China) was constructing a road at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in an “indisputable” part of Chinese territory. Thimphu said it had conveyed to the Chinese government that this was not the case.

In an indication that the trigger for the current standoff between India and China at Sikkim, which has led to Beijing closing the Nathu La Pass route for Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims, possibly arose from Bhutan’s concerns, Ambassador of the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Delhi Major-General V. Namgyal told The Hindu that the road construction by the Chinese Army was “progressing towards” a camp of the Royal Bhutan Army at Zom Pelri.

“Bhutan has conveyed that the road construction by the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is not in keeping with the agreements between China and Bhutan [over boundary resolution],” Ambassador Namgyal told The Hindu . “We have asked them to stop and refrain from changing the status quo.”

China and Bhutan have held 24 rounds of talks, with the last one in August 2016, to discuss the dispute part of the border.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that the current impasse with India, including the area of Donglong (called Doko La by India and Doklam by Bhutan) is a part of Chinese territory since “ancient times”, adding that “If India wants to raise an issue with this part, I would say that it doesn’t belong to Bhutan, nor does it belong to India.”

The spokesperson even accused India of a “hidden agenda”, saying that though “the boundary between China and Bhutan has not been delimited, no third party should interfere in this matter.”

 

However, Bhutan, which has unique relations with India and maintains and coordinates its diplomatic relations closely with New Delhi, said the area under construction definitely “lies in an area of dispute.”

The PLA had started to construct a motorable road at Doklam towards the Bhutan Army Camp at Zom Pelri,” Ambassador Namgyal confirmed, adding that according to the boundary talks between China and Bhutan, the two sides “had committed to maintain peace and tranquility along the border and refrain from unilateral action to change the status quo.”

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has refused to comment on the ongoing situation, and maintained silence in the face of a barrage of statements from the Chinese foreign ministry in the last few days.

 

The remarks by the Ambassador will bolster India’s case in the current skirmish that has seen China roll back one of its most popular goodwill gestures, the opening of a second, motorable route for Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar.

Dozens of pilgrims who hoped to use this route have been left stranded or turned back disappointed in the past weeks, a measure China says India is responsible for, accusing Indian soldiers of entering Chinese territory at the boundary with Sikkim.

Of concern are Army reports of several skirmishes between Indian and Chinese soldiers at parts of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that has been mostly calm for the past 20 years, since both countries signed an agreement for “peace and tranquillity”.

The incident comes amidst a series of diplomatic spats between India and China that has seen India refusing to join China’s Belt and Road initiative on sovereignty concerns.

Remarks by the Arunachal Chief Minister claiming his State borders “Tibet, not China” have also angered Beijing, as despite denials from the MEA, seemed to indicate a revision of India’s “One China” policy.

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