NEW DELHI:China and India have agreed to end a lengthy stand-off at the Sikkim border that began in June, the government said today. India said soldiers of both countries were withdrawing their troops. But China seemed to suggest only Indians were withdrawing. The Chinese foreign ministry said it was “pleased” that India had agreed to withdraw soldiers from the area and asserted that Chinese troops will continue patrolling Doklam plateau, which they claim as their own.
China will “continue its sovereignty rights”, the Chinese foreign ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying.
India’s foreign ministry spokesperson had said: “…expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit China in a few weeks for a summit of the BRICS group of nations. Indian sources said that soldiers from both sides have begun withdrawing, but the process of removing them will not be completed today.
The conflict, which was the worst in decades, saw 300 soldiers from each side, confronting each other on the remote Doklam plateau in the Eastern Himalayas. India ignored repeated baiting and aggressive rhetoric by China to insist it would seek diplomatic channels to resolve the tension.
India had also urged that both sides withdraw troops to engage in dialogue; Beijing insisted on the unilateral pulling out of India’s soldiers.
In June, Indian soldiers crossed the Sikkim border to stop China from constructing a road on the Doklam Plateau, which is disputed territory for China and Bhutan. India has sided with Bhutan’s claim. Delhi had also stressed that it had forewarned China that the road would be seen as a serious security concern because of the access it opens up to the narrow sliver of land called the “Chicken’s Neck” that links India to its northeastern states.
China retorted that it had every right to build a road in a region that is part of its territory.
Chinese media and spokespersons repeatedly warned of military escalation, a possible “countdown to war” and of a repeat of India’s humiliating defeat by China in 1962.
Then, two weeks ago, Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed at the picturesque Pangong Lake in Ladakh in the Western Himalayas. On camera, soldiers were seen hurtling stones at each other. Delhi said the two-hour conflict was triggered by China attempting an incursion onto the Indian side of the lake.