India boosts troops in Doka La in standoff with China's PLA

03 July 2017

With China in no mood to back off, India has deployed more troops in the Doka La area in Bhutan, near the Sikkim border to strengthen its position where the Indian Army personnel have been locked in a standoff with Chinese troops for almost a month now.

India was forced to bring more troops after the PLA struck an aggressive posture and destroyed two Indian bunkers, sources said, adding that Indian soldiers are still in a "non- combative mode".

As India pushed in more troops to strengthen its position, China has called for withdrawal of forces in order to de-ecalate tension and resolve the fresh border stand-off between the two countries.

China, however, dismissed India's assertion that Beijing's construction of road in the disputed Doka La area poses "serious security implications" as "untenable" and asked New Delhi not to deviate consensus on developing bilateral relations.

"It is well known that the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary has been demarcated by the 1890 Sino-British Treaty," Xinhua news agency said, asking India to withdraw its troops from the area to end the current stand-off.

The stand-off, which began after a face-off between the two armies on 1 June when the Chinese army asked Indian troops to remove two bunkers set up in 2012 at Lalten in Doka La, which falls in the vicinity of Chumbi Valley at the corner of India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

The bunkers were set up in 2012 to back up patrolling operations in the area, besides providing security to the Bhutan-China border.

Following the Chinese aggression, troops informed the Army's Sukna-based 33 Corps Headquarter in North Bengal.

However, during the night of 6 June, two Chinese bulldozers destroyed the bunkers, claiming that the area belonged to China and that India or Bhutan had no right over it, the sources said.

Indian troops on the ground prevented the Chinese men and machines from doing any further damage or transgressing into the area, they said.

Additional forces were moved in on 8 June during which a scuffle led to soldiers on both sides suffering minor injuries.

PLA also rushed in troops from its 141 division located in the area, prompting the Indian Army to also strengthen its position.

This is the longest standoff between the two armies since 1962. The last one, which carried on for 21 days, occurred at Daulat Beg Oldie in the Ladakh division of Jammu and Kashmir in 2013, when Chinese troops entered 30 km into Indian territory till the Depsang Plains and claimed it to be a part of its Xinjiang province. They were, however, pushed back.

Sikkim, which became a part of India in May 1976, is the only state which has a demarcated border with China. The lines are based on a treaty signed with the Chinese in 1898.

After the India-China war of 1962, the area where the Indian troops are stationed was placed under the Indian Army and the ITBP, which is the border guarding force and has a camp 15 km from the international border.

As the scuffle broke out between the two sides, the Indian Army rushed an officer of the Major General rank to the area to seek a flag meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

China rejected two such requests from the Indian side, but accepted the third call for a meeting, where it asked the Indian Army to withdraw its troops from the Lalten area, which falls in Doka La.

Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Dokalam, while China claims it to be part of its Donglang region.

As a fallout of the standoff, the Chinese refused to allow the first batch of 47 pilgrims, who were to conduct the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, into Tibet. They also conveyed to the Indian side that visas of another batch of 50 yatris had also been cancelled, the sources said, describing the move as an indication of "increased tempers" in Beijing.

The Sikkim route to Mansarovar, which is in Tibet, was opened in 2015, enabling pilgrims to travel the 1500-km long route from Nathu La to Kailash by buses.

It is not the first time that such a transgression has happened at Doka La. The Chinese forces had in November 2008 destroyed some makeshift Indian army bunkers there.

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