Chinese troops continue to camp at Doklam despite harsh winter

Chinese troops continue to camp at Doklam despite harsh winter

Notwithstanding harsh weather and sub-zero temperature, nearly 1,000 Chinese troops continue to camp at Doklam, where the border guards from India and China had a 72 day long face-off last year.

This is for the first time, such a large number of troops is stationed at the contentious spot in the winter even though nearly 250 of them went back to the formation headquarters at Yadong in the recent months.

Traditionally Chinese soldiers were never seen to have their presence in Doklam and the area was patrolled only in summer months.

But after the 72-day long face off last year, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) not only left a sizeable number of its troops near the contentious area, but also constructed pre-fabricated structure for their stay in inclement weather.

After the crisis was defused in August, troops from both sides stepped back 600 m from the face-off site and stayed put. While Indian troops were occupying the dominating heights, there was no lowering of guards from either side at the onset of winter.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat on Monday claimed a "very major reduction" in troop strength in Doklam though he didn't quantify the decline.

A day later, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson refused to comment on Gen Rawat's remarks but maintained that the area was continued to be guarded by the PLA troops.

"The Dong Lang (Doklam) area has all along been part of China and under China's continuous and effective jurisdiction. There is no dispute in this regard," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing when asked about Rawat's remarks.

Following the stand-off, Indian Army increased its troop strength by 10-15% all along the disputed Sino-Indian boundary. The Army anticipates more such Doklam-like flash points or "shallow" intrusions by the Chinese troops in the future.

But the two sides, according to the Army Chief, amicably sorted out another road construction dispute in Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh at a Brigadier-level flag meeting at Kibithoo last week. The dispute started on December 28.

Last month India and China held their 20th round of border talks between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi in which two sides agreed that an "early settlement" of the protracted boundary dispute would serve "the fundamental interests of both countries."

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