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53 Indian soldiers remain at Doklam standoff site, China claims

10 August, 2017 5:03 AM
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53 Indian soldiers remain at Doklam standoff site, China claims

Beijing on Wednesday claimed that 53 Indian soldiers and one bulldozer remained at the Doklam standoff site. New Delhi had last week denied a similar Chinese claim.

China, on Wednesday, once claim that India had reduced its troop strength on the Doklam plateau, the site of a seven-month-long standoff between the armies of the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The claim was made by China's Foreign Ministry, which, according to a Global Times report, said that 53 Indian troops remain at the standoff site, which is close to the Sikkim border, near the India-China-Bhutan trijunction point.

Citing the ministry, Global Times reported said that 53 people and a bulldozer from the Indian side remain in "Chinese territory" as of Monday.

The new claim is similar to the one from last week. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had then said that "there were 48 Indian soldiers and one bulldozer" in the Doklam area as of August 2.

"In addition, there are still a large number of Indian armed forces congregating on the boundary and on the Indian side of the boundary," Geng had said.

India, however, had denied those claim, with sources saying that the there was change in the troop strength at the standoff site, except for movements to relieve soldiers who are locked in the face-off.

Even the latest Chinese claim could prove to be untrue. The Indian Express today reported that around 350 Indian soldiers remain in the Doklam. The Indian daily's report was about the People's Liberation Army stepping up troop presence around a kilometer away from the standoff site.

Notably, New Delhi has never officially communicated the exact number of Indian soldiers present in Doklam. Media reports have said that the troops number 300-350.

Meanwhile, commentary carried by Xinhua, the official news agency of the People's Republic of China, slammed India for committing "seven "sins" against Chinese sovereignty and international law."

"These severe mistakes may trigger unpredictable consequences and greatly undermine regional peace and stability," the piece added.

The Xinhua editorial is part of what has become a daily trend of articles/opinion pieces on the Doklam standoff. Chinese state media has been particularly aggressive on the issue, maintaining a constant barrage of pieces seemingly aimed at antagonising India.

The Xinhua commentary, published Wednesday, repeats the same arguments that have been previously been raised in pieces carried by other state-run media outlets.

The article says that the Indian move to send soldiers to Doklam violates the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China and that "it is obvious that India's military invasion, under the pretext of so-called 'security concerns,' tramples on the principles of the law as well as international order and cannot be tolerated by any sovereign state."

New Delhi has highlighted concerns that Chinese road construction, which is what sparked the crisis, in Doklam could pose a security threat to the so-called Chicken's Nest that links India to its northeast.

Notably, the Xinhua piece repeats an explosive claim that China made earlier this week - that Bhutan has admitted to Doklam being a part of China. The claim was made by a Chinese official earlier this week, but was not corroborated by Thimpu.

"The fact is that the Bhutanese authorities have clearly told Chinese officials that Doklam is not Bhutan's territory and expressed bewilderment at India's trespassing into Chinese soil," the Xinhua piece says, concluding that India must be willing to "swallow possible consequences" if it doesn't withdraw its troops from Doklam.

India and China have been locked in a face-off in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector for over 50 days after Indian troops stopped the Chinese Army from building a road in the area.

China claimed it was constructing the road within their territory and has been demanding immediate pull-out of the Indian troops from the disputed Doklam plateau. Bhutan says Doklam belongs to it but China claims the area belongs to it and says Thimphu has no dispute with Beijing over it.

Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doklam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.

India's position on the issue was made clear by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently, saying both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, favouring a peaceful resolution of the border standoff.

Also read: Reserve Bank of India slaps ₹ 5 cr. fine on South Indian Bank


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