China accuses India of ‘betrayal’ over Sikkim

Age Correspondent With Agency Inputs

India, All India

Beijing: Will take measures to safeguard territory

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops was first reported when China denied Indian pilgrims entry for the sacred Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the Nathu La pass in Sikkim. (Photo: PTI/File)

New Delhi/Beijing: Terming India’s act of stopping Chinese troops from constructing a road in an area near Sikkim as a “betrayal”, China on Monday said India must pull back its soldiers from the area.

“The India-China boundary in the Sikkim section is well demarcated. The action taken by India is a betrayal of the position taken by the Indian governments,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a media briefing in Beijing.

“By entering into the Chinese territory and obstructing Chinese troops’ normal activities, India has violated the existing convention on the boundary and basic principle of international law and obstructed peace and stability of the boundary area. We require the Indian side to withdraw their troops to the Indian side of the boundary and create conditions for the restoration of peace and stability,” he added.

Reacting to Indian defence minister Arun Jaitley’s statement that India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962, the spokesperson said, “He (Arun Jaitley) is right in saying that India in 2017 is different from 1962, just like China is also different.”

China, he added, will take “all necessary measures” to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.

Mr Jaitley was reacting to a Chinese defense ministry official’s oblique reference to the 1962 war when he saidthat the “Indian Army could learn lessons from the past and stop such dangerous clamour for war”.

The Chinese media, meanwhile, has said that India’s objection to China building a road in Sikkim ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US was aimed at demonstrating to Washington its “firm determination” to “constrain” China’s rise.

New Delhi’s position has consistently been that while the status of Sikkim as a part of India has been accepted by the Chinese, the boundary in the Sikkim sector with China is yet to be finalised.

“Where the boundary in the Sikkim sector is concerned, India and China had reached an understanding, also in 2012, reconfirming their mutual agreement on the ‘basis of the alignment’. Further discussions regarding finalisation of the boundary have been taking place under the Special Representatives framework,” Indian external affairs ministry had said in a statement issued last week.

On Monday, adopting a de-escalating move, an Indian Army spokesperson said: “Such sensitive issues are best dealt between two nations, away from the media glare”. The spokesperson also added, “Indo-China relations as also the relationship between both the armies are extremely well managed by a host of mechanisms.”

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops was first reported when China denied Indian pilgrims entry for the sacred Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the Nathu La pass in Sikkim.

While initially Beijing said it stopped the pilgrimage due to damage to roads in Tibet after rains and landslides, it later said that the matter was related to the standoff between the two armies near Sikkim.

The Sikkim route to Mansarovar was opened in 2015, enabling pilgrims to travel the 1,500-km long route from Nathu La to Kailash on bus.

Meanwhile, experts on Sino-India strategic affairs warned on Monday that a war is also possible if the ensuing confrontation is “not handled properly”, noting that China will resolutely defend its territory and safeguard the border.

“India is trying to catch up with China in the construction of frontier defense,” Zhao Gancheng, director of Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told Global Times. “Both sides should focus on development rather than conflict or war,” he added.