News Doklam: India will maintain territorial integrity, asserts defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman

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SOURCE: TNN

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman today asserted that India was “ready for any unforeseen situation” in Doklam and will “maintain” its territorial integrity, reported ANI.

“We are alert and ready for any unforeseen situation in Doklam. We are constantly working on the modernisation of our forces. We will maintain our territorial integrity,” ANI quoted the minister as saying in Dehradun.

Sitharaman’s comments came a day after India’s ambassador to China refuted reports that the Chinese military was stepping up infrastructure build-up in the Doklam area.

“No, I can tell you that in Doklam area, which we call close proximity or sometimes the face off site, the area where there was close confrontation or close proximity between Indian and Chinese military troops, there is no change taking place today,” said Gautam Bambawale in an interview to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

It was reported a few days ago that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was trying to circumvent Indian troop positions with a road axis in the Doklam area near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.

Bambawale also once again emphasised that China should not change the status quo along the Indian border.

“In the sense that if the Chinese military is going to build a road, then they must tell us ‘we are going to build a road’. If we do not agree to it then we can reply that, ‘look, you’re changing the status quo. Please don’t do it. This is a very, very sensitive area,” the envoy said.

He cautioned that “if anyone changes the status quo, it will lead to a situation like what happened in Doklam.”

“The Chinese military changed the status quo in the Doklam area and therefore India reacted to it. Ours was a reaction to the change in the status quo by the Chinese military.”

China is reportedly looking to take over Doklam or the Dolam Plateau to add strategic depth to its Chumbi Valley.

Sources said that PLA troops were “trying to work around or outflank” the Indian Doka La military outpost by constructing a new 1.3-km long road and “communication trenches” around 4-km away from the spot.

This axis is significant as it could allow them access toward the Jampheri Ridge in south Doklam, as the PLA had wanted before last year’s stand-off between the two sides.

Earlier this month, Sitharaman had said that Indian and Chinese troops had “redeployed” themselves away from the face-off site in Doklam, and that China undertook construction of helipads, sentry posts and trenches for its army personnel there, reported PTI.

“Post disengagement from the face-off in 2017, troops of both sides have redeployed themselves away from their respective positions at the face-off site. The strength of both sides have been reduced,” she said replying to a question on the issue in Lok Sabha.

“In order to maintain these troops during the winter, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads.”