New Delhi: The Government of Bhutan on Thursday pointedly refuted a Chinese foreign ministry claim that Bhutan had conveyed through diplomatic channels to China that the trilateral border stand-off area in Doklam in the Sikkim sector is not its territory.
Official sources in the Bhutanese Government told ANI over phone, “Our position on the border issue of Doklam is very clear. Please refer to our statement which has been published on the web site of Bhutan’s foreign ministry on June 29, 2017.”
The Bhutanese sources were responding to a stunning, but unsubstantiated claim made by China’s top diplomat, Wang Wenli, that Bhutan had conveyed to Beijing through the diplomatic channels that the area of the standoff was not its territory.
Wang, who is the Deputy Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in China’s foreign ministry, reportedly conveyed this information to a visiting Indian media delegation on Wednesday. She, however, did not provide any evidence of her claim, which official sources in Bhutan said is at complete variance with Thimphu’s stated position and actions.
While acknowledging that Bhutan had protested to the Chinese government about Beijing violating a bilateral pact by allowing its troops to construct a road in the Doklam area on 16 June, Wang was quoted, as saying, “After the incident, the Bhutanese made it very clear to us that the place where the trespassing happened is not Bhutan’s territory.”
She further was quoted, as saying that “Bhutanese find it very strange that the Indian border troops are on the Chinese soil,” and implied that her views have been gleaned from Bhutanese state media and legal blogs which have “more convincing information”.
Official sources in Bhutan, however, firmly countered this claim today by saying that their country’s foreign ministry has clearly emphasized in their June 29 statement that, “Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the (motorable) road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the (written) agreements (of 1988 and 1998) and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries.”
The Bhutanese foreign ministry statement clearly states that the attempt by the Chinese Army to construct the motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri was a unilateral action that needed to be stopped immediately pending settlement of the boundary issue.
The sources said that the statement is clear that the agreements of 1988 and 1998 also state that both sides “will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary (and that) Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June 2017.”
India has also cited the Bhutanese foreign ministry as emphasizing that “the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries.”
India has conveyed to China that the road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for New Delhi. India has said both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place. Bhutan has no direct diplomatic relations with China and maintains contacts with Beijing through its diplomatic mission in New Delhi.
Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of talks to resolve boundary dispute, while India and China have completed 19 rounds of talks.