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Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that India is capable of defending itself against China. In a toughening of its stand, India has said that China will have to withdraw its troops from Doklam sector on the Bhutan-China border if they want India to pull out its Army from the disputed area.

In its first comprehensive comment on the month old Border dispute with China, Foriegn Affairs Minister of India, Sushma Swaraj have accused China of unilaterally trying to change the status quo on the frontier with Bhutan.

This is what had sparked off the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese armies, she told the Rajya Sabha. She said while China was saying that India should withdraw its troops from Doklam for negotiations to begin, “we are saying that if a dialogue is to be held, then both should withdraw (their troops)”. The Chinese action “is a challenge to our security”, the Minister said, adding India was not doing anything unreasonable.

The stand-off started more than a month ago when Indian troops stopped Chinese soldiers from building a road on the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China. This has severely affected Sino-Indian ties, with Chinese experts threatening a war if New Delhi did not buckle.

Sushma Swaraj accused China of violating the terms of a written agreement reached between India, China and Bhutan in 2012. “Over the years, China has been trying to get closer and closer to where the tri-junction point ends and they done things like repair roads, re-tar them and things like that.”

She described what was different about the June 16 incident that led to the stand-off.”This time though, they came with bulldozers and construction equipment with the aim of breaching the point where the tri-junction ends. That is a threat to our security,” she said. This time, China wanted to “unilaterally change the status quo” at the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction, she said.

“As long as it was between China and Bhutan about their border dispute, we had no problem. But when it comes to tri-junction, our interests came into the picture. China is trying to come down to Batang La. China’s efforts to unilaterally change the status quo at the tri-junction poses a diresct threat to the security of India.

“Foreign countries are with us. They feel that China is being aggressive with a small country like Bhutan. Bhutan has protested, including in writing. All the countries feel India’s stand is right and the law is with us,” the Minister said. On China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, Sushma Swaraj said India has been opposing this project right from the beginning of it.

“As soon as we learned that they are making CPEC a part of OBOR, we registered our protest,” the Minister said, referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India calls its territory. She also said that China has been building ports and facilities close to Indian maritime boundaries.

“They have built a facility which they call logistic support facility at Djibouti. They have also developed ports at Kyaukpyu in Myanmar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Balochistan. “But to say that India is being surrounded is not correct. India is alert towards its security. No one has the power which can surround or corner India,” the Minister said.