The month-long stand off between the Indian and Chinese security forces continued yesterday with the Chinese Defence ministry issuing a statement calling on India to withdraw troops immediately from the disputed region. Spokesperson Ren Guoqiang was quoted as saying that India should give up the “illusion of its delaying tactic”, adding that the Chinese forces on the ground were confident and fully capable of safeguarding the country’s territorial sovereignty and security interests. The 15-page statement released by the ministry put the number of Indian troops in Doklam at 40, down from a peak of 400. Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi put the figure at 48. Meanwhile, in the Indian parliament, minister for External Affairs Ms Sushma Swaraj spoke at length defending the government’s policy on the issue, and foreign policy in general.
However, her statement in the Rajya Sabha stating that she had not spoken at the Bandung Conference has been called into question. Opposition members have moved a privilege motion against the minister for misleading the members of the house, saying that they will attach video footage of the purported speech as evidence. Members of the house also questioned Ms.Swaraj’s assertion that there had been no terror attack after PM Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan to greet former PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, pointing out that the Pathankot attack happened immediately after the visit. The motion is to be brought before the house today.
While the Chinese army called restraint a bottomline in the conflict, its ‘salami-slicing’ of the Doklam region is not new as part of its expansionist ambitions for its southern and eastern borders. China has already laid claim to Arunachal Pradesh, which it refers to as a disputed region it has taken to calling Tawang. China also occupies the Aksai Chin which was Indian territory to the east of Ladakh. Besides, China has been engaged in territorial conflicts with Japan, Taiwan as well as Vietnam over multiple islands in the South China Sea.