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India FM: China, India Should Withdraw Troops From Doklam Plateau

By Anjana Pasricha July 20, 2017

India says both New Delhi and Beijing should pull back their forces to restore the status quo on a remote Himalayan plateau where a tense standoff between the Asian rivals is now in its second month.

Saying that other countries support New Delhi's position, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament on Thursday, "India has not said anything unreasonable."

It is the first time India's foreign minister has spoken about the confrontation that flared in mid-June when Indian soldiers obstructed China from building a road on a strip of territory that lies at a high mountain junction between China, India and Bhutan.

While China accuses Indian troops of intruding into its territory, India says Beijing has entered a border area that is disputed between China and Bhutan, and which is strategic for New Delhi.

Withdrawal as precondition

China has made the withdrawal of Indian troops a precondition for talks, but Swaraj says if discussions are to be held, both sides must pull back.

She told parliament that India's security would be jeopardized by the Chinese actions.

"If China unilaterally changes the status quo of the trijunction point, then it poses a challenge to our security straightaway," said Swaraj.

New Delhi is worried because Chinese control of the Doklam Plateau could give its troops easy access to a narrow strip that connects India to its northeast. India says its troops are in the region with the consent of Bhutan, its close ally.

Swaraj pointed to a 2012 agreement, according to which disputed borders on a junction between the three countries are to be settled through talks. But she said Beijing this time had brought bulldozers and excavators to build a road.

Nearly five weeks on, amid sharp rhetoric from China and no signs of either side backing down, it is being called the most serious confrontation between the two Asian giants who fought a brief war in 1962.

India says it is making diplomatic efforts to defuse the row. "India's approach has been to find peaceful solution of all matters concerning the border with China," Foreign Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said at a weekly briefing on Thursday.

Beijing, on the other hand, repeatedly has warned New Delhi that it risks escalation by not vacating the plateau.

China's "aggression and rhetoric" on the recent standoff are "unusual," India's top diplomat, S. Jaishankar told lawmakers during a briefing this week.

With no signs of a resolution to the latest row, the standoff has raised concerns in the international community.

During a visit to New Delhi this week, Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, urged the Asian neighbors to resolve the row amicably. "We don't want to see any escalation of tensions that could lead to miscalculation and misjudgment," she said.

US State Department

The U.S. State Department also has expressed concern. "We believe that both parties, both sides should work together to try to come up with some better sort of arrangement for peace," State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.

Meanwhile, India's foreign minister expressed confidence about the support of other countries. "All the countries are understanding that India's stand is not wrong. Justice is on our side, this is being accepted by all others," Swaraj said.

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