The Government of Bhutan on Thursday refuted Chinese foreign ministry claims about Thimpu telling Beijing that the trilateral border stand-off area in Doklam in the Sikkim sector is not Bhutan’s territory.
A top Chinese diplomat Wang Wenli had claimed that Bhutan had conveyed to Beijing through diplomatic channels that the area of the standoff is not its territory.
Wang, who is the deputy director general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in China’s foreign ministry, reportedly conveyed this information to a visiting Indian media delegation on Wednesday.
She, however, did not provide any evidence to back her claim, which has been strongly denied by Bhutan.
Official sources in the Bhutanese Government told ANI over phone, “Our position on the border issue of Doklam is very clear. Please refer to our statement which has been published on the web site of Bhutan’s foreign ministry on June 29, 2017.”
Reacting to the developments in Doklam, Bhutan had on June 29 issued a press release in which it clearly stated that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.
In the press release, Bhutan said that the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri on June 16, 2017.
It further said that the boundary talks between Bhutan and China were under way and the two countries had written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that they agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question. The two countries have also agreed to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959 and refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.
Bhutan has hoped that the status quo in the Doklam area would be maintained by China as before 16 June 2017.
The Chinese diplomat, while acknowledging that Bhutan had intially protested about Beijing’s violation in the Doklam area, was quoted as saying, “After the incident, the Bhutanese made it very clear to us that the place where the trespassing happened is not Bhutan’s territory.”
She was further quoted as saying that “Bhutanese find it very strange that the Indian border troops are on the Chinese soil,” and implied that her views have been gleaned from Bhutanese state media and legal blogs which have “more convincing information”.
However, Bhutan has denied all these claims.
India has also cited the Bhutanese foreign ministry as emphasizing that “the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries.”
India has conveyed to China that the road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for New Delhi.
India has maintained both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place.
Bhutan has no direct diplomatic relations with China and maintains contacts with Beijing through its diplomatic mission in New Delhi.