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India briefs envoys on stand-off; China says PLA stronger than mountain

The briefing by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was attended by 15-20 envoys and senior diplomats.

Ashok Tuteja | NEW DELHI |

India is learnt to have briefed Delhi-based envoys of major countries on the situation arising from the ongoing stand-off between India and Chinese troops at Doklam plateau on the trijunction between India, China and Bhutan.

The briefing, believed to have been done by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and other senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry, took place at a hotel sometime last week.

According to one of the diplomats, who was present, the briefing was attended by 15-20 envoys and senior diplomats from nearly 20 other nations.

The diplomat, who did not wish to be identified, said Jaishankar explained the circumstances in which Indian troops were left with no choice but to prevent Chinese troops from going ahead with the road construction activity in the area in violation of the agreement to maintain status quo ante there.

Delhi expressed confidence that the two countries would be able to resolve the face-off through diplomatic means. It was also pointed out to the foreign envoys that the two countries had successfully maintained peace and tranquility along their long border all these years and New Delhi was committing to settling the current situation too peacefully. Some of the envoys are understood to have raised certain queries with regard to the stand-off.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had last week told the Rajya Sabha that all nations support India’s stand on the Doklam issue. However, the Chinese official media accused her a day later of lying in Parliament. The Chinese, on their part, have also briefed the foreign envoys on their stand on the current tension with India.

There is, however, some concern in diplomatic circles in New Delhi over India’s position. ‘’Our concern is that India says it had acted on behalf of Bhutan and stopped the Chinese from constructing the road but what happens if the Chinese enter Jammu and Kashmir and say they are doing so on behalf of Pakistan,’’ a diplomatic source said.

New Delhi appears confident that there would be diplomatic talks on the stand-off when National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval visits China later this week to participate in the BRICS NSAs’ meeting.

Meanwhile, Beijing continued with its rhetoric against New Delhi,asking India to immediately withdraw all troops from Doklam. Claiming that it was easier to shake a mountain than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it said China would defend its territorial sovereignty "at all costs."

"The Chinese border troops have taken initial counter measures at the site and will step up targeted deployment and training," Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence Wu Qian as saying at a press conference.

Asserting that China’s demand was a prerequisite to resolving the situation, he said, ‘’we strongly urge India to take solid measures to correct its mistakes and desist from provocation." He also called for joint efforts to maintain peace in border areas.

The spokesperson cautioned India to abandon any impractical illusions.The history of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the past 90 years has demonstrated its increasing capacities and unshakable determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.