The situation in Doklam is “absolutely fine” and there is no reason to worry, Army chief Bipin Rawat said here today, amid reports of China developing defence infrastructure near the strategically key area. Commenting on last year’s Doklam standoff, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said “frequent” instances of transgression by the Chinese army across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Doklam incident were an indication of increasing assertiveness by China. Admiral Lanba, who is also chairman of chiefs of staff committee, while addressing a conference, said the face-off at Doklam has also underscored the vulnerability of Siliguri Corridor, a 22 km-long narrow stretch linking the Northeast with the rest of India.
“(It is) absolutely fine. There is nothing to worry,” Gen. Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of the event when asked about the current situation in Doklam. Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28. As a close friend and neighbour, Bhutan enjoys diplomatic and military support from India.
Addressing the conference on bridging gaps and securing borders in the north-eastern region, Admiral Lanba said despite the cartographic differences with China, peace and tranquility has been maintained along the LAC for several decades. “However frequent instance of transgression by the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) across the LAC and the recent standoff at Doklam are indication of increasing assertiveness of China, as it makes rapid progress both economically and militarily. The recent developments have also underscored the vulnerability of Siliguri corridor,” he said.
The Navy Chief said the Northeast has a large portion of international borders and that the region should be integrated into the national economy and national consciousness by improving its infrastructure, economy and connectivity. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Army Chief Gen. Rawat had quietly travelled to Bhutan earlier this month during which they held extensive talks with the top brass of the Bhutanese government on strategic issues including the situation in Doklam.
Last month, Gen Rawat had said the time had come for the country to shift its focus from the western to the northern frontier. Sources had said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the area. The Indian Army has also been strengthening its troop level in certain key sectors along the Sino-India border besides enhancing infrastructure there.