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‘Talks can resolve Doklam impasse’
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday supported diplomatic engagements with China to resolve the ongoing stand-off in the Doklam sector saying the issue cannot be resolved through war but through bilateral talks.
“Patience and restraint, and appropriate language are the key to resolving problems. Because if patience is lost, there can be provocation on the other side. We will keep patience to resolve the issue with China. The diplomatic channels are working. We will continue engaging with China to resolve the dispute,” Sushma said in reply to a short duration discussion in Rajya Sabha on the issue of India’s foreign policy.
Her response came after Opposition members expressed concerns over the ongoing stand-off in the wake of Chinese officials warning India “not to push it luck on this matter” and withdraw its forces from Doklam.
While making it clear that military readiness is always there, she said India would not prefer escalation of conflict. “War cannot resolve problems. So wisdom is to resolve diplomatically,” she asserted. The Minister also added that the countries are today known by their economic capabilities and not by their military might.
She said it is an important fact that Chinese are the biggest investors in India and the Chinese investment has gone up from $116 billion in the last few years to $160 billion as on date, which is a 37 per cent increase. “We are talking about India China bilateral relations in totality and Doklam is not the only issue,” she said.
Sushma also read out a statement giving out the present and some historic facts on the Doklam stand-off and India’s position on the tri-junction issue. While adding that India’s position on this issue has been articulated in the Press statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on June 30, she said Chinese actions have implications for the determination of the tri-junction boundary point between India, China and Bhutan and the alignment of India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector.
She asserted both these aspects of tri-junction points and India-China boundary alignment in the Sikkim sector had been earlier addressed in a written common understanding reached between the Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question in December 2012.
“Point 13 of the common understanding states that ‘the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.’ Since 2012 we have not held any discussion on the tri-junction with Bhutan. The Chinese action in the Doklam area is, therefore, of concern. With regard to the boundary in the Sikkim sector there are still steps to be covered before the boundary is finalised.
This understanding has been reflected in the Common Understanding of December 2012 in point number 12 which states that ‘There is mutual agreement on the basis of the alignment of the India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector as provided by the convention between China and Great Britain relating to Tibet and Sikkim signed in 1890’,” Sushma said while demolishing Chinese claims that the boundary issue in this area was a settled issue.
She added that during the Eighth Special Representatives meeting in June 2006, the Chinese side had handed over a non-paper for separate agreement on the boundary in Sikkim sector. The non-paper had proposed that “Both sides may, based on the above mentioned historical treaty i.e. 1890 Convention verify and determine the specific alignment of the Sikkim sector and produce a common record,” the Minister said.
“On this basis as the initial result of the boundary settlement both sides may negotiate a final agreement on the boundary alignment in the Sikkim sector to replace the historical treaty. Subsequently, in the Special Representatives meeting the Chinese side has made the proposal for finalising the boundary in Sikkim sector terming it as an early harvest of the SR process thus clearly confirming that the boundary in the Sikkim sector is not yet finalised. Otherwise they would not have used this term “early harvest” as we say “low hanging fruit,” Sushma said.
She further added that India has noted that the Chinese side has selectively quoted parts of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter of March 22, 1959 pertaining to the India-China boundary in the Sikkim sector. “A full and accurate account of that letter would have also brought out Prime Minister Nehru’s assertion that was clearly based on the boundary alignment as shown in our Indian published maps,” she said.
She reiterated her previous statement that India always believes that peace and tranquility in the India-China border is an important pre-requisite for smooth development of the bilateral relations. “We will continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of the Astana Consensus between our leaders. I note the sense of the house is supportive in this regard in keeping the traditional friendship with Bhutan, we will also continue to maintain close consultation and coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan,” she said.
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