(G.N.S) Dt. 17
Days after berating China for exhorting pressure on India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat on Wednesday said terms between Beijing and New Delhi have returned to the same level of conviviality as before the tense Doklam stand-off.
“I think the bonhomie (between India and China) has returned to what was prior to Doklam, so I don’t visualize a very serious trouble, but then one has to be prepared for it always,” Gen Rawat was quoted as saying by ANI at the Raisina Dialogue here.
Rawat’s positive outlook on India-China ties are an abrupt U-turn from last week’s combative remarks on the need to shift attention from the western border with Pakistan to the northern frontier given the growing assertiveness of Chinese troops.
The army chief’s statement had earned the ire of Beijing, with foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang panning Rawat’s comments as “unconstructive” and unhelpful in maintaining peace at the borders. Chinese state media upbraided New Delhi for being “diplomatically immature” and asked the Indian Army to “tone down (its) hawkish rhetoric”.
In contrast, the army chief took a softer line today, observing that the number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the other side of the border at Doklam had decreased.
“As far as Doklam is concerned PLA soldiers are there in a part of the area, although not in numbers that we saw them in initially. They have carried out some infrastructure development which is mostly temporary in nature,” he said.
However, the Indian army is still concentrating on the neighbourhood and is prepared to ensure the situation does not escalate beyond a point, said Gen Rawat.
“While troops (PLA) may have returned and infrastructure remains, it is anybody’s guess whether they would come back there or is it because of the winters that they could not take their equipment, but we are also there, so in case they come, we will face them,” he asserted.
At the same time, Gen Rawat said efforts to improve bilateral relations were on and the Border Personnel Meeting, suspended since the Doklam face-off, had once again resumed.
“But mechanisms that we have of defusing tensions between our two countries are working very well and after Doklam we’ve started our Border Personnel Meeting, we are meeting regularly, exchanges are taking place, communication between commanders at ground level is on,” he said.
Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam since June 16 after the Indian side stopped construction of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. The crisis was resolved after the PLA stopped road building and the Indian Army withdrew from the area on August 18.