China today justified its massive construction activities in the Dokalam area, describing it as “legitimate” and aimed at improving the lives of its troops and the people living on its own territory. China’s reaction came amid reports that it was building a huge military complex close to the site of the Dokalam standoff with India. Asked about reports citing satellite imagery of a Chinese military complex in the area, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “I have also noted the relevant report. I don’t know who offered such kind of photos.” But at same time he said he did not have detailed information on it. The reports raised concerns that the China may be preparing for another standoff with India. Lu, however, said: “China’s position on the Donglong (Dokalam) area is quite clear. Donglong always belonged to China and always under China’s effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard,” he said asserting Chinese sovereignty over the area which is also claimed by Bhutan. He said China is building infrastructure for its troops and the people living in the area. “In order to patrol the border and improve the production and lives of border troops and residents, China has constructed infrastructure including roads in the Donglong (Dokalam) area,” Lu said. He said China was exercising sovereignty in its own territory.
“It is legitimate and justified. Just as China will not make comments on India’s construction of infrastructure on India’s territory. We hope other countries will not make comments on China’s construction of infrastructure in its own territory,” he said. Asked about concerns that China is preparing for a second standoff at Dokalam area, he said Indian troops’ intervention to stop building a key road close the Chicken Neck Corridor of India, has put the bilateral ties to severe test. Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Dokalam area near Sikkim before “disengaging” on August 28. In an apparent referent reference to Amy Chief General Bipin Rawat’s recent remarks that Dokalam is a disputed territory between China and Bhutan, Lu said: “The Indian senior military officer has recognised that it was the Indian border troops who crossed the border”.
“This incident has put bilateral relations to undergo a severe test. We hope the Indian side can learn lessons from this and avoid the incident to happen again,” he said. Recalling the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Xiamen in September, Lu said “actually during the summit the two leaders has reached some consensus on improving bilateral relations and chartering the course for future development”. “We hope relevant parties can earnestly follow through on the consensus reached by the two leaders, move in the same direction and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the border areas and stay committed for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations,” he said.
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday said the face-off situation that had arisen in the Dokalam region last year was “resolved following diplomatic discussions between India and China, based on which both sides arrived at an understanding for the disengagement of their border personnel at the face-off site”. “Subsequently, in response to repeated questions about any change in the status quo at the face-off site, Government had stated that there was no basis for such imputations. Government would once again reiterate that the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous,” a statement by the ministry had said.