China’s foreign minister has claimed that the “Indian side admitted” to entering Chinese territory, the first time a top leader of that country has weighed in on the protracted standoff in the Sikkim area.
Foreign Minister Wang Li’s brief comments, made in Bangkok on Monday, were reported on his ministry’s website on Tuesday. But the comments provided no justification or basis for his claim.
“The rights and wrongs are very clear,” he said, adding that even senior Indian officials have “openly stated that Chinese troops did not enter into the Indian territory.” However, he did not say which officials have said that or where.
He went on to say: “In other words, the Indian side admitted to entering the Chinese territory.”
It was not clear how the purported comment by the unnamed Indian officials led him to conclude that India was admitting to border transgression.
The foreign ministry website quoted Wang as saying that the “solution to this problem is very simple: conscientiously withdraw.”
It is the first time that such a senior person in the Chinese hierarchy has commented on the dispute, which has been dominated by shrill rhetoric in the state-owned media with almost-daily commentaries attacking India with nationalistic warnings.
There was no immediate reaction from the Indian government.
The Chinese media commentaries and foreign ministry spokesmen have demanded that India withdraw its troops from the Dokalam area in the southernmost part of Tibet in an area also claimed by Bhutan.
Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a face-off in the trijunction area for more than a month since Indian troops stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the area.
China claimed it was constructing the road within its territory. India protested the construction, fearing it would allow China to cut India’s access to its northeastern states.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament on Thursday that both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, favouring a peaceful resolution of the border standoff.
Swaraj also said that the “unilateral” Chinese action to change the status quo near the Bhutan trijunction poses a challenge to India’s security.
Doval is 'main schemer': Chinese state-run media
The Doklam issue is expected to be discussed during the visit of Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to Beijing for a meeting of the NSAs of BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - on July 27-28.
However, continuing its rhetoric, the Global Times newspaper, which is part of the Communist Party’s publication group, on Tuesday described Doval as one of the “main schemers” of the dispute, adding that his visit will not sway Beijing.
At the same time, China Daily, another government newspaper, pressed for exploring ways to avoid a confrontation, adding that “it’s never too late for India to mend its way.”
Doval is expected to discuss the standoff with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
Both officials are also the Special Representatives of their countries for the boundary talks.
“There are still hopes that the deadlock can be resolved peacefully, which serves both countries’ best interests,” the China Daily said.
“The two sides need to explore ways to avoid confrontation. It would be damaging to both countries and regional stability if India cannot use its reason and wisdom to avoid the military collision both countries are currently on course for,” it said.
But The Global Times took a different tone.
“As Doval is believed to be one of the main schemers behind the current border standoff between Chinese and Indian troops, the Indian media is pinning high hopes on the trip to settle the ongoing dispute,” the daily said.
“New Delhi should give up its illusions, and Doval’s Beijing visit is most certainly not an opportunity to settle the standoff in accordance with India’s will,” it said.