Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is in Sikkim today amid a standoff between Indian and Chinese troops
New Delhi: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is in Sikkim today amid a standoff between Indian troops and the Chinese army along the border in the sensitive sector. At the heart of the dispute is a road being built by China in Doklam, where it has a territorial dispute with Bhutan. Beijing on Wednesday virtually accused India of having a "hidden agenda" hinting that New Delhi is trying to stop it from building the road on Bhutan's behalf. Bhutan has lodged a formal protest asking China to stop work on the road.
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Doklam, also called Donglang, is under Chinese control, but is also claimed by Bhutan. It is located at a tri-junction of India, Tibet and Bhutan and is close to the Nathu La pass, through which China has blocked this year's Kailash Mansoravar yatra or pilgrimage over the border tension with India.
"We have issued a demarche to China through its diplomatic mission here. Recently, the Chinese army started construction of a road towards Bhutanese Army camp at Zomphlri in Doklam area which is in violation of an agreement between the two countries," Ambassador of Bhutan to India Vetsop Namgyel told news agency PTI.
Doklam, Mr Namgyel said, is disputed territory and "Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquility should be maintained in the area." Bhutan does not have diplomatic ties with Beijing.
A Chinese government official said on Wednesday, "The China-Bhutan boundary is not delineated, no third party should interfere in this matter and make irresponsible remarks or actions."
He asserted that Donglang is part of China, saying, "This is indisputable. The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn't belong to Bhutan. India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor it belongs to India."
China has alleged that Indian troops crossed the Sikkim border to its territory and has linked future visits of Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet to India "withdrawing its troops".
General Rawat will today take stock of operational matters and interact with top commanders in the formation headquarters of the Army in Sikkim.
Two batches of a total of about 100 pilgrims had to return from the Nathu La Pass despite having visas to cross the border to visit Mount Kailash in Tibet. Other batches did not go. About 400 pilgrims travel every year to Kailash-Mansarovar by the Nathu La route and are received across the border by the Chinese.
The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is of religious and cultural significance for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. In 2015, China agreed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's request to let Indians access the mountain, considered the abode of Lord Shiva, through the Nathu La Pass, which is a relatively easier route than through a pass in Uttarakhand. The yatra through Uttarakhand is continuing smoothly.