India made Bhutan distort facts, says China

China and India’s wrangling over Bhutan escalated on Monday amid accusations by Beijing that the alleged intrusion by Indian troops in the Sikkim sector was a “betrayal” of a former colonial-era understanding of the boundary alignment in this area.

Adopting a shriller tone in demanding the pullback of 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, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang responded to remarks by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley that India of 2017 was different from what it was in 1962. “China too is different and will take all necessary measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty,” Mr. Geng observed.

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, which began in the 1980s between Beijing and Thimpu.

Asked to comment on breaching an understanding with Bhutan on maintaining the status quo in areas in dispute, Mr. Geng denied that there was a dispute between Beijing and Thimpu in the Doklam area, at the tri-junction of China, India and Bhutan.

Chinese claim

“The 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,” Mr. Geng said.

Mr. Geng’s remarks sharply contradicted the assertion by Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan’s ambassador to India, who has stated 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 tranquillity should be maintained in the area.”

The current round of border tensions was triggered by the construction of a road by China in the Doklam area. New Delhi has maintained that a road there 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.