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Rediff.com  » News » China destroys Indian bunker in Sikkim, justifies road construction

China destroys Indian bunker in Sikkim, justifies road construction

Last updated on: June 28, 2017 23:39 IST

China has removed an old bunker of the Indian Army located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan in Sikkim by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request, according to official sources.

The incident that broke out in the first week of June in Doka La general area in Sikkim had led to a face-off between the two forces, triggering tension in the Sikkim section of the India-China border, the sources said on Wednesday.

Army Chief to visit Sikkim

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat will visit Sikkim on Thursday in the backdrop of a standoff between Indian troops and Chinese army.

The Army chief will take stock of the operational matters and interact with top commanders in the formation headquarters of the force in the border state.

Official sources described Gen Rawat's visit as routine.

During the two-day-long visit, Gen Rawat will travel to a number of other formation headquarters in the Northeast and review various operational matters in the region -- a strategically key region having most of the 3,488-km-long-border with China.

Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim.
The Indian Army has not commented on the face-off.

The forcible removal of the old bunker by using heavy machinery like a bulldozer came when the Indian side did not agree to a request by the Chinese authorities to dismantle it, the sources said.

China is believed to have not taken kindly to India building many new bunkers and upgrading older ones along the border in Sikkim in the recent past to augment its defences against the People’s Liberation Army, the sources said.

Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim.

Beijing is also upset with New Delhi over the recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, the sources said, adding they were also trying to escalate tension in the forward areas, including in Sikkim, even though the border in the northeastern state is demarcated.

The Sikkim government has also sent a report to the central government giving details of the situation along the border following the stand-off in Doka La.

The first batch of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims comprising about 50 people returned from Nathu La border post as the stand-off between India and China continues.

The pilgrims returned to Gangtok on June 23 after staying in Nathu La for three days awaiting permission from the Chinese side to undertake the onward journey.

The second batch of the pilgrims did not move from Gangtok while pilgrims were told to go home as the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is unlikely to continue this year via Nathu La.

The Sikkim route to Mansarovar, which is in Tibet, was thrown open to public in 2015.

The visas for the third batch, comprising about 50 pilgrims, were not given yet. A total of 8-10 batches were supposed to go for the pilgrimage through Nathu La this year.

Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said on Tuesday that 100 pilgrims were sent back by China despite them having a Chinese visa.

The sources said the Chinese side has mentioned a broken bridge as being the reason for the pilgrims not being able to cross into Tibet for the annual yatra.

Sikkim is a part of the middle sector and experts have been warning the government of increased Chinese activities in this area.

China on Wednesday termed the construction of a road in the Sikkim sector as 'legitimate', asserting that it was being built on Chinese territory that neither belongs to India nor Bhutan and no other country had the right to interfere.

China also virtually accused India of having a ‘hidden agenda’ in the current military stand-off.

China also hinted that India was objecting to its efforts to build the road in Donglang area of the Sikkim sector on behalf of Bhutan which does not have any diplomatic ties with Beijing.

"Donglang is part of China's territory. This is indisputable. The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn't belong to Bhutan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media in Beijing.

"India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor it belongs to India. So we have complete legal basis for this. Chinese construction of the road project is legitimate and normal action on its territory. No other country has the right to interfere," he said while replying to a question.

Taking a dig at India, Lu said Bhutan is a universally recognised sovereign country.

"Hope countries can respect the sovereignty of the country. The China-Bhutan boundary is not delineated, no third party should interfere in this matter and make irresponsible remarks or actions," he said.

"If any third party, out of hidden agenda, interferes it is disrespect of the sovereignty of Bhutan. We don't want to see this as Bhutan is a country entitled to sovereignty by the international community," Lu said.

Donglang is located in a tri-junction close to the strategic area called Chicken's Neck.

China says that the Sikkim part of the India-China boundary is settled and therefore India has no right to object over the road construction.

Lu said China opened the Nathu La pass in the Sikkim sector in 2015 for Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash because of this.

Lu defended China's decision to shut the Nathu La pass for Indian pilgrims to enter Tibet, saying that China has agreed to open the route as the boundary there has been delineated with the consent of both the countries.

"For a long time in the interest of India-China relations, China provided great conveniences to the Indian pilgrims. Based on the consensus between the two country leaders, and on the fact that the Sikkim sectors boundary is delineated and recognised by two countries, the Chinese side in 2015 opened the Nathu La pass for Indian pilgrims," he said.

For two years it worked well and in fact this year also the Chinese authorities had prepared for the reception of Indian pilgrims and informed the Indian side about it.

"Now the suspension of the same is an emergency response to the situation there. I want to stress that the resumption of pilgrims pass requires necessary atmosphere and conditions. So the liability of the same totally lies on Indian side and when it will be reopened depends on the when or whether the Indian side will correct its errors," he said.

Asked about whether there was any progress in the talks between India and Chinese officials over the issue, Lu said, "the Indian troops crossed the boundary at the Sikkim side to the Chinese territory."

"This is different to what was before in India-China boundary. China has made solemn representations against the same. India should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China," he said.

Meanwhile, Chinese think tanks speculated that India stopped the road construction on behalf of Bhutan.

Lu on Tuesday also had justified the move to construct a road in the Sikkim sector, saying that the area is "undoubtedly" located on its side of the border as per the 1890 Sino-British Treaty on Sikkim.

"According to the treaty, 'zhe' is the ancient name of Sikkim," Lu said.

"As per this treaty, the area over which the Indian Army has raised objection is undoubtedly located on the Chinese side of the border," he said on Tuesday.

China had on Tuesday lodged a protest with India over the alleged "crossing of boundary" by its troops in the Sikkim section and demanded their immediate withdrawal.

It had also linked future visits of pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar to India 'withdrawing the troops' from the area.

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