A psychological war seems to be on between India and China over the Doklam issue with both sides refusing to stand down or talk it out. Even though it seems to be an issue for Bhutan to sort out the Indian government has jumped in to settle scores with China. But China with its aggressive foreign policy has not only threatened India with meddling in Sikkim but is now extending it to Kashmir too. It would be wise for New Delhi to work towards a political solution rather than upping the ante.
Rebuffing China’s offer, India on Thursday ruled out any third party mediation on Kashmir about which it is ready to talk to Pakistan at a bilateral level as terrorism is at the core of the problem between the two countries.
Reacting to the Chinese Foreign Office spokesperson’s remarks that China was ready to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said cross-border terrorism was at the heart of the issues between New Delhi and Islamabad.
“Our stand is absolutely clear. You are all aware of the fact that at the heart of the matter is the issue of terrorism perpetrated on India, including on the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. So, the matter is that cross-border terrorism in our region emanating from a particular force is threatening the peace and stability in not only India but other neighbours and also the entire region and the world,” Baglay said in his weekly media briefing.
“As far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, you know that the government’s position has been very consistent and clear. We are ready, we have been ready to have a dialogue with Pakistan… That position of addressing all the issues with Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, in a bilateral framework, has not changed.”
The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday offered to play a “constructive role” in improving India-Pakistan ties over Kashmir where the “situation has attracted the attention of the international community”.
Baglay also rubbished Pakistan media reports hinting at the use of chemical weapons in Kashmir.
“The claims are completely baseless and incorrect. India is against the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world.”
He said it was “quite surprising” to see what the government of Pakistan was talking about and reading from the terror script of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“They have taken a leaf out of the book of Lashkar-e-Taiba on those ridiculous comments. The government is taking its cue from an internationally banned terrorist organisation,” he added.
The government has called an all party meet on Friday on the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops along the border.
The meeting, which is likely to be held at Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s residence, is aimed at briefing the opposition parties about the situation along the border in Sikkim where a standoff has been continuing since June.
The meeting, for which invitation has gone from External Affairs Minister, comes ahead of the Monsoon session of parliament set to start from July 17.
A stand-off is continuing between Indian and Chinese troops along the border in Sikkim, near India-China-Bhuta tri-junction since June. The trouble started after China attempted to build a road in Bhutan’s territory.
Notwithstanding China’s reservations, India has maintained that the current border stand-off in Doklam would be resolved diplomatically like it had solved all its disputes with Beijing in the past using diplomatic channels.
Gopal Baglay said diplomatic channels were “available” to the two countries that would continue to be used.
He referred to a “conversation” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg last week “where they spoke on a range of issues”.
“As far as the Doklam issue is concerned, you know we have diplomatic channels. Embassies are there in both the countries and those channels will continue to be used,” Baglay said in his weekly media briefing.
Doklam is the Indian name for the region which China refers to as Donglong.
Asked about the provocative statements from China and the Chinese media over the border issue, the spokesperson said the government had “clearly laid out” its position and approach to deal with the matter.
“We have referred to how the two governments have been engaged in the last few years in addressing this issue, the boundary matter and the tri-junction. We have also mentioned understandings between the two countries,” he said.
Baglay referred to Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s speech in Singapore earlier this week when he said India and China have handled their border issues in the past and there was no reason why they would not be able to deal with it this time.
“He (Jaishankar) referred to the understanding between the two leaders (Modi and Xi) which essentially underlines the approach we are following in this regard. So, we are very much seized of the matter, we are very much sure of the approach that is being taken and that is where it stands,” the spokesperson said.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Office spokesman Geng Shuang dismissed Jaishankar’s remarks saying the “trespass” by the Indian troops in Doklam was different from the “frictions in the undefined sections of the boundary” between India and China.
Asked if Modi and Xi particularly talked about the Doklam issue, Baglay refused a direct reply saying: “I would leave it to your imagination and common sense to summarise what can be covered in the range of issues.”
“We have accumulated a lot of experience on both sides in addressing a number of matters. You know it and it has been said. Not only by us but by others also,” he said.
He pointed out that the result of this approach has been “the tranquillity” along the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh. Some 220 km of the border falls in Sikkim.
Pressed further if New Delhi and Beijing were talking, and through which channel since China has ruled out talks until Indian troops vacate Doklam, Baglay said his comments needed to be taken in “totality”.
“The matter we are dealing with is a serious matter for a number of reasons. We have outlined our position, we have outlined our approach in this regard. I said a range of issues was discussed in a conversation between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi. Then I said diplomatic channels are available. I don’t think I would like to comment on what is happening or what is being done in this regard. I request you to see in totality what I said.”
Asked if National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was visiting China this month, Baglay denied having any information in this regard.
When a TV journalist asked what were the issues discussed between Modi and Xi during their “five-minute meeting” in Hamburg, Baglay said, “it is not for me to cover the range of issues they discussed”.
To China denying any meeting between the two leaders, Baglay said: “I would only refer you to the information that we put out the same afternoon after the meeting. There was a picture that we had tweeted, there was a brief text that we had tweeted…”
India should let Bhutan take the lead in negotiating with China on the disputed Doklam Plateau and other disputed territories instead of getting involved itself, the CPI-M has said.
An editorial in the CPI-M journal People’s Democracy has also blamed India’s growing strategic ties with the US for the deteriorating relations with China.
The standoff between India and China on the Doklam Plateau, adjoining the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan, is now a month-old and shows no signs of ending.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist said the issue “has assumed more serious proportions… because of the deterioration in the overall relations” between India and China.
But it noted that the present dispute did not pertain to any border area between China and India.
“The Modi government must realise that there is no alternative to settling the recurring disagreements on the border except through negotiations,” the editorial said.
“It is also important to keep in mind that Bhutan is the main party in the dispute. Bhutan is not a ‘protectorate’ of India.
“It must be underlined that Bhutan has been negotiating with China directly on its border issues since 1984.
“It is better that India let Bhutan take the lead in negotiating with China on the Doklam Plateau and other disputed territories. India can lend support to Bhutan’s position.”
The CPI-M said the present border fracas had assumed greater salience because Sino-Indian differences had aggravated since the Modi government took power.
“The prime factor contributing to this divergence is India’s strategic alliance with the US. India has joined the US in its strategic designs in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region which is aimed at containing China.
“India has openly sided with the US position on the South China Sea; India has opposed the Belt and Road Initiative.
“Within the country, the Modi government has increased the profile of the Dalai Lama and the so-called Tibetan provisional government (which) are serious irritants for China.”
The editorial said India saw China as a stumbling block in its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Beijing had not helped to get Pakistan-based Masood Azhar on the terrorist list notified by the UN.
“The erosion of trust and mutual confidence has contributed to the present tensions related to Doklam.”
The CPI-M quoted Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar as saying that India and China must not allow differences to become disputes.
“It will be good if this approach is put into practice by the Modi government,” it said. “Extraneous factors must not be allowed to interfere in the quest for better relations between the two neighbours in Asia.” (IANS)