India said today it will continue to engage with China to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Dokalam standoff, but underlined that incidents like one in Ladakh three days ago were not in the “interest of either side”. “Today, I can confirm that there was an incident at Pangong Tso on August 15. This was subsequently discussed by the local army commanders of the two sides. Such incidents are not in the interest of either side. We should maintain peace and tranquillity,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. However, he did not confirm whether the incident involved stone pelting or use of rods and asserted that, “I just said there was an incident.” He also emphasised that the incident should not be linked with what was happening in any other sector.
Kumar also did not confirm whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to China next month to attend Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit, saying he does not have any information about it. Asked about the current status of the standoff, he said, “It is a sensitive issue… We will continue to engage with China to find mutually acceptable solution. Peace and tranquillity in border areas are important pre-requisites for smooth development of bilateral relations.” However, he quipped, “I am not an astrologer, so cannot predict”, when asked by when the Dokalam standoff will be resolved.
In the context of the Ladakh incident, he said two border personnel meetings (BPMs) had taken place between Indian border guards and Chinese troops recently. He said one BPM had taken place at Chushul on August 16 and another one at Nathu La a week before. Asked if China has shared hydrological data with India in the backdrop of floods in Assam, Kumar said there is an existing expert-level mechanism, established in 2006, and there are two MoUs under which China is expected to share hydrological data on rivers Sutlej and Brahmaputra with India during the flood season of May 15 to June 15.
“For this year, we have not received hydrological data from the Chinese side,” the spokesperson said. However, he added that it was “premature” to link it with the floods in Assam as there can be “technical reasons” behind China not sharing the data. He also noted that in view of floods in Bihar, India was closely coordinating with Nepal, both at Centre and state- level. Asked about the reported comments of the Japanese Ambassador on Dokalam face off and if India welcomes it, Kumar gave a very guarded reaction, saying the remarks speak for themselves.
The Japanese ambassador was quoted in media as saying that no country should use unilateral forces to alter the status of Dokalam. “We recognise Dokalam is a disputed area between Bhutan and China and two countries are engaged in border talks… We also understand that the India has a treaty understanding with Bhutan that’s why Indian troops got involved in the area,” the ambassador had reportedly said. Reacting to the Japanese ambassador’s comments, Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing said, “I want to remind him not to randomly make comments before clarifying relevant facts. In the Donglong (Dokalam) area, there is no territorial dispute. The boundary has been delimited and recognised by the two sides.”
Kumar also refused to divulge details of communication by other countries to India on the Dokalam issue. Asked about a video, posted by Chinese state-run media, which portrayed Indians in a very poor taste, he said he does not want to “dignify” it with a response. On the tense situation in the Korean peninsula, Kumar said India understands growing concerns among international community on the situation in that region. India’s position is consistent that there should be peaceful resolution of the issue, he added. The reaction comes amid exchange of aggressive rhetoric between North Korea and the US over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and missile program.