Chinese Infrastructure in Doklam? MEA Says No Even as Army Chief Bipin Rawat Says Yes

The MEA has termed reports about infrastructure, albeit 'temporary', at Doklam as 'mischievous', says there has been no change in status quo.

New Delhi: A day after Army chief Bipin Rawat said that Chinese troops are still at Doklam five months after the 73-day standoff ended between India and China in the tri-junction with Bhutan and that they’ve built some “temporary” infrastructure, the Ministry of External Affairs asserted that the “status quo” at the face-off site has not been altered.

Earlier this week, The Print had published an article which showed that China has built new helipads and trenches at the Doklam plateau.

At the Raisina Dialogue on Wednesday, Rawat said, “They have carried out some infrastructure development, most of it is temporary in nature. But while their troops may have returned and the infrastructure remains, it is anybody’s guess whether they would come back there, or it is because of the winter they could not take their equipment away that.”

A day later, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar reiterated the government’s position that there has been no change in stance since the disengagement in August. “It may be recalled that last year, the face-off situation that had arisen in the Doklam region was resolved following diplomatic discussions between India and China, based on which both sides arrived at an understanding for the disengagement of their border personnel at the face-off site,” said Kumar.

On August 28, India had issued a statement that both sides had agreed to an “expeditious disengagement” at Doklam. The face-off had started after Bhutanese and Indian troops had stopped a Chinese road construction team at Doklam, which India considers Bhutan’s territory.

At that time, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had said that India had withdrawn their troops, but remained silent on the status of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. “China will continue to exercise its sovereign rights and maintain territorial sovereignty in accordance with the provisions of the historical conventions,” said spokesperson Hua Chunying.

The MEA spokesperson stated that the government had said that “there was no basis for such imputations” to repeated questions about the presence of Chinese troops at Doklam. “The government would once again reiterate that the status quo at the face-off site has not been altered. Any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate and mischievous,” he said.

The Congress has accused the government of misleading the country. “The satellite imagery and media reports suggest that China has military establishments in Doklam near Indian borders, which indicates that India’s security and strategic interests have been compromised,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.