NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — Bhutan has denied having conveyed any message to China ceding its claim of the disputed Doklam area. This comes in response to Chinese bureaucrat Wang Wenli's statement to a visiting delegation of Indian journalists that Bhutan had agreed that Doklam was indeed China's territory.
Wenli is Deputy Director-General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs in China's foreign ministry. The Indian media had reported that Wenli could not produce evidence to back her claim.
The Asian News International (ANI) quoted Bhutan's official sources as saying: "Our position on the border issue of Doklam is very clear. Please refer to our statement which has been published on the website of Bhutan's foreign ministry on June 29, 2017."
In its June 29 statement, Bhutan's foreign ministry had published a statement confirming that the Chinese Army had started constructing a motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri on June 16, 2017. The statement said the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of agreements and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.
China has claimed the area as its own territory citing various documents dating back to 1890, signed during the British colonial days. However, Bhutan says the area belongs to it. The two countries have no direct diplomatic ties and maintain contacts through their diplomatic missions in New Delhi. Nevertheless, Bhutan and China have held 24 rounds of talks to resolve their boundary dispute.
However, India has refused to put its foot down while conveying to China that the road construction represents a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for New Delhi. Indian experts say New Delhi can no longer ignore China's attempt to change the facts on the ground and larger strategic implications coming out of its actions.
"Amid claims and counterclaims between two major powers, let's not forget the issue is primarily about China bullying Bhutan and its attempt to change the facts on the ground. Thimpu has stood up against China with Indian help, with which it enjoys a unique relationship. From India's point of view, it is not just about helping Bhutan, but also ensuring that China is not able to change strategic dynamics on the ground in the Doklam, which before June was to be solved as per the terms discussed and agreed under the 2012 agreement," Harsh V. Pant, Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and Professor of International Relations, King's College London, told Sputnik.
On Wednesday, an editorial published by China Daily said that the countdown to a military conflict between India and China had begun and New Delhi should come to senses and withdraw troops from Doklam before it's too late. It said the "clock is ticking away."