Nearly 50 days into the border stand-off at Doklam, China claimed on Wednesday that the number of Indian soldiers at the site, east of Sikkim, has come down from over 400 to over 40. But Indian government sources maintained that there were about 350 soldiers in the area and that there has been no change in the number. A 15-page statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Delhi claimed that authorities in China had “notified” their Indian counterparts about the road construction at Doklam, which led to the stand-off. Again, this is contrary to India’s stance that the PLA construction party had entered the Doklam area on June 16, without notification, and attempted to work on a road.
In the statement, China has also demanded a troop withdrawal by India, and a probe into the alleged illegal trespassing by Indian soldiers. Speaking to The Indian Express, official government sources said that there has been no change in the number of Indian soldiers deployed in Doklam area from the beginning of the standoff. Nearly 350 Indian soldiers are deployed at a distance of around 300 Chinese soldiers near Doka La, sources said. Responding officially to the Chinese statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “India’s position on this issue and related facts have been articulated in our press statement of June 30. India considers that peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas is an important prerequisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations with China.” It did not address the points raised in the Chinese statement.
On troop numbers, the 15-page statement stated in the second paragraph: “On 16 June 2017, the Chinese side was building a road in the Dong Lang area. On 18 June, over 270 Indian border troops, carrying weapons and driving two bulldozers, crossed the boundary in the Sikkim Sector at the Duo Ka La (Doka La) pass and advanced more than 100 metres into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road building of the Chinese side, causing tension in the area. In addition to the two bulldozers, the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 metres into the Chinese territory. As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory.”
The Chinese statement further claimed that it had notified India “in advance” about the construction and that the “Dong Lang area is Chinese territory”.“China’s road building on its own territory is aimed at improving local transportation, which is completely lawful and legitimate. China did not cross the boundary in its road building, and it notified India in advance in full reflection of China’s goodwill. The Indian border troops have flagrantly crossed the mutually-recognized boundary to intrude into the Chinese territory and violated China’s territorial sovereignty. This is indeed a real attempt to change the status quo of the boundary, and it has gravely undermined peace and tranquility of the China-India border area,” the statement alleged.
However, by sticking to its statement on June 30, New Delhi has implied that there was no notification from the Chinese side.Challenging the Indian position that China, through its unilateral action, has made a significant change in the status quo, Beijing alleged that New Delhi has been trying to change the status quo in Sikkim “time and again… which poses a grave security threat to China”.
The statement said: “Over the years, Indian troops have constructed a large number of infrastructure facilities including roads at the Duo Ka La pass and its nearby areas on the Indian side of the boundary, and even built fortifications and other military installations on the boundary. China, on the contrary, has only had very little infrastructure built on its side of the boundary in the same sector.”