Japan takes cautiously pro-India stance on Doklam

18 August 2017

After the United States of America, Japan has now come out in support of India on the ongoing border crisis between India and China at the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction on the Doklam or Doka La plateau, saying there should be no attempt to change the status quo on the ground by force.

Responding to questions on the current border stand-off, Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu said on Thursday, "We understand that the standoff in the Doklam area has been ongoing for nearly two months. As it can affect the stability of the entire region, we have been watching the situation very closely/"

Japan, who also is faced with maritime aggression by China, emphasised the need to respect agreements and not alter the status quo at will. "What is important in disputed areas is that all parties involved do not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, and resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner," he said.

The Japanese envoy also said, "We realise that the area is disputed between China and Bhutan, both recognise the existence of a dispute and were engaged in border talks. We also understand that India has a treaty understanding with Bhutan, that's why Indian troops got involved in the area."

His statements came even as Chinese diplomat Wang Wenli, Deputy Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in China's foreign ministry, claimed that Bhutan had conveyed to Beijing "through diplomatic channels that the area of the standoff is not its territory".

The Japanese statement is seen as an endorsement of the Indian position that China has violated agreements with India and Bhutan in attempting to build a road through Doklam plateau - a development that would be a serious disadvantage to India's military defences.

Even as China has set a precondition of withdrawal of troops for any kind of dialogue, Japan seems to cautiously incline towards India. "As far as India's role is concerned, we understand that India is involved in this incident based on bilateral agreements with Bhutan. External Affairs Minister Swaraj has made it clear that India would continue to engage with dialogue through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution. We consider this attitude towards peaceful resolution important,'' Hiramatsu said.

The Japanese reaction follows two separate interventions by the US calling for direct dialogue between India and China to resolve the crisis while cautioning against unilateral changes on the ground. This, too, has been seen as supportive of India.

The US has also indicated support for India by tagging the Hizbul Mujahideen and its leader, Syed Salahuddin, as sources of terror, a snub to Pakistan and its benefactor China.

On Wednesday, the US had called India and China to resolve the stand-off through dialogue. US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, "We are encouraging both parties to sit down and have a direct dialogue."

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