Doklam: will govt please tell the truth?

Doklam: will govt please tell the truth?

Doklam: will govt please tell the truth?

China's increasingly aggressive construction activity in Doklam Plateau, barely five months after a 73-day-long face-off between Indian and Chinese troops there warrants immediate attention and action by India's security establishment.

A few weeks ago, media reports drew attention to satellite images available in the public domain that revealed a new road the Chinese are building in Doklam. More recent images show that the Chinese have built several military structures, including a full-fledged military complex, helipads and trenches, just 81 metres from the point where the two armies were locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball stare-down last year. The Ministry of External Affairs insists that the "status quo" at the site of the face-off has not been altered and that it has "used mechanisms" to "resolve misunderstandings" with China. However, Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat has admitted to Chinese infrastructure building in Doklam, albeit of a "temporary" nature. Is the MEA not in the loop on matters at the Line of Actual Control? Or worse, is it in a state of denial? Even the Chinese government is not denying its infrastructure building in Doklam. Indeed, it has justified its activity there as "legitimate" and is reasserting its claim over Doklam rather strongly by insisting that it has "always belonged to China" and under its "effective jurisdiction."

Following an agreement in late August, India and China agreed on an "expeditious disengagement" of their troops to end the crisis that severely strained Sino-Indian relations last year. This came as a relief. There was quiet satisfaction in India that Chinese troops had pulled back and that the Doklam crisis had "ended". Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Beijing for a Brics summit thereafter and engaged in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of that summit. It did seem then that relations were on the mend. However, in October, media reports on Chinese building activity in Doklam began trickling in again. India brushed these aside as attempts by Xi to impress hardline Chinese nationalists ahead of the Communist Party Congress. The recent satellite images indicate that the Chinese may have never halted their construction activity at Doklam or at best only paused for a while, only to return to the area subsequently. Did Beijing take India for a ride by agreeing to disengage in August? Or worse, did the Modi government agree to de-escalation on Chinese terms?

The Modi government must reveal the terms of the deal with China in August. If the terms cannot be made public for reasons of national security, the government should at least take the opposition parties into confidence on the matter. Doklam is primarily a matter between Bhutan and China, but its proximity to Chicken's Neck - India's Siliguri Corridor - makes its possible loss to China a grave threat to India.

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