China on Wednesday said India should not make territorial claims on Bhutan’s behalf in the Doklam standoff even as it maintained that it valued good neighbourly and friendly relations with New Delhi and to keep peace on the border.
“The China-Bhutan boundary issue is one between China and Bhutan. It has nothing to do with India. As a third party, India has no right to interfere in or impede the boundary talks between China and Bhutan, still less the right to make territorial claims on Bhutan’s behalf,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
The claim was made in a 15-page dossier, “The Facts and China’s Position”, on weeks of standoff between the Indian Army and the Chinese border guards in the Doklam bowl on the border in Sikkim that has raised a threat of war between the two countries.
The border confrontation over the Himalayan tri-junction between the two countries erupted in mid-June when Indian troops stopped Chinese soldiers from building a road at the stretch where India and China connect with Bhutan.
China and Bhutan both claim Doklam even as the two countries along with India do not agree where their borders meet.
The latest Chinese document said India’s “intrusion” into Chinese territory under the pretext of Bhutan has not only “violated China’s territorial sovereignty but also challenged Bhutan’s sovereignty and independence”.
“China and Bhutan are friendly neighbours. China has all along respected Bhutan’s sovereignty and independence… The border area between China and Bhutan has always enjoyed peace and tranquility. China will continue to work with Bhutan to resolve the boundary issue between the two countries through negotiations and consultations in the absence of external interference.”
The document said China has “shown utmost goodwill and great restraint” since the standoff began.
It said Beijing has “sought to communicate with India through diplomatic channels to resolve the incident” with “a prerequisite” that India should “immediately and unconditionally withdraw its trespassing border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary”.
“No country should ever underestimate the resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty.”
It reiterated China’s stand that its government “will take all necessary measures” to safeguard its rights and interests.
“The Chinese government always values the growth of good, neighbourly and friendly relations with India and is committed to maintaining peace and tranquility in the border area between the two countries.
“The Chinese side urges the Indian government to keep in mind the larger interest of bilateral relations and the well-being of the two peoples.”
The document invokes an 1890 agreement between China and Great Britain and asked India to abide by the 1890 Convention and the delimited China-India boundary established therein.
“This would serve the fundamental interests of both countries and go along with the shared expectations of countries in the region and the wider international community.”
New Delhi has, however, maintained that Beijing had agreed in 2012 to finalise the border issue consultatively and that unilaterally determining tri-junction points by China was “in violation of this understanding”.
Ministry of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had on July 20 rejected China’s demand that India withdraw its troops, saying the pull out should be from both sides for a dialogue to be held for resolving the standoff.
The Chinese document also cites March 22 and September 26, 1959 letters from then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Chinese Premier Chou En-lai.
“The boundary of Sikkim, a protectorate of India, with the Tibet region of China was defined in the Anglo-Chinese Convention 1890 and jointly demarcated on the ground in 1895,” Nehru wrote to Chou in the March 22 communication.
And reiterated in the September 26 letter 1959 that “there is no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region”.