Opposition backs govt's stand on Doklam border standoff

15 July 2017

The government and major opposition parties on Friday arrived at a consensus on India's position on the stand-off with China, ahead of Parliament's monsoon session, even as the government faced tough questions on the delay in resolving the dispute.

The meeting was held in response to the opposition leaders' call for using ''active diplomatic channels'', and reach out to the opposition parties and some of its allies to build a consensus on the border standoff.

During the meeting, the government said India had been forced to respond to unilateral actions by China and that the government was acting with restraint. However, it was necessary to halt the Chinese advance as it would have seriously threatened India's strategic interests at the tri-junction and the road link between West Bengal and Assam, it was pointed out.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance minister Arun Jaitley and minister of home affairs Rajnath Singh presented government's views on the issue.

While both the government and the opposition agreed on the need to engage in negotiations to ease the tension in the Doklam region of the Sikkim sector, all major opposition parties have backed the action of Indian troops in stalling a Chinese attempt to build a road through Bhutanese territory.

However, CPM leader Yechuri struck a dissenting note saying that India should cultivate China rather than the United States to avoid inviting Chinese ire.

On the other hand, most opposition leaders were supportive of the Indian position that China has violated the commitments arrived at through the special representatives' dialogue. Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former defence minister, even cautioned government that China had betrayed Nehru and would behave similarly with the NDA government if it let its guard down.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar, also a former defence minister, said India advised patience in resolving the face-off, rather avoiding any hasty actions.

During the interaction, foreign secretary S Jaishankar explained that the Chinese claim to the territory near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction and its invocation of the 1890 Britain-China agreement as misleading. He quoted from a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959 to belie the Chinese claim that India's first PM had accepted the 1890 treaty over Sikkim approving Beijing's claim on the Doklam area.

"All political parties expressed strong support for India's approach and also for the need for national unity," the official spokesperson said after the meeting. The statement underlined the need for diplomacy while also iterating support for Bhutan. "The importance of India and China to remain engaged through diplomacy was underlined... The unique nature of the very close and longstanding India-Bhutan relationship was recognised," the spokesperson said.

The meeting also discussed issues related to the recent terrorist attack on Amarnath yatris and the situation in the Kashmir Valley with some opposition leaders like Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad and Yechury suggesting the government open dialogue with stake-holders

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