New Delhi, Mar 25: India’s ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale on Saturday rubbished reports suggesting fresh Chinese troop build-up in Doklam saying the status quo remains “unchanged”. “No, I can tell you that in Doklam area, which we call close proximity or sometimes the face-off site, the area where there was close confrontation or close proximity between Indian and Chinese military troops, there is no change taking place today,” Bambawale said while speaking to a Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The Indian envoy, however, warned that any attempt by China to change the status quo along the Indian border may lead to another Doklam-like stand-off. Bambwale said the un-demarcated border between India and China is “the most serious problem between the two countries” and they need to redefine the boundary soon.
“In order to maintain the peace and tranquillity (along India-China border), there are certain areas, certain sectors which are very sensitive, where we must not change the status quo. If anyone changes the status quo, it will lead to a situation like what happened in Doklam,” Bambawale said. “The Chinese military changed the status quo in the Doklam area and therefore India reacted to it. Ours was a reaction to the change in the status quo by the Chinese military.”
“… when incidents like Doklam happened last year, it meant that we were not frank and candid enough with each other. So we need to increase the level of frankness. In the sense that if the Chinese military are going to build a road, they must tell us ‘we are going to build a road’. If we do not agree to it then we can reply that, ‘look, you’re changing the status quo. Please don’t do it. This is a very very sensitive area’,” he said.
It was earlier reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is involved in massive road construction and infrastructure build-up near the face-off site in Doklam. The new satellite images of Doklam region show concrete Chinese posts, helipads, new trenches and several dozen armoured vehicles close to the point where the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops were locked in a 72-day standoff last year. There were reports that China has built several tunnels and barracks near the disputed area in Doklam.
Following the reports, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too had ruled out the possibility of another Doklam. “India has established a process of engagements with China at various levels. And I don’t think that Doklam will be repeated. We need to be alert and conscious at the border every minute. Anytime anything can happen at the border,” the defence minister said while speaking at News 18 Rising India Summit.