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Army chief's 'unconstructive' comments will hurt tranquility in border areas, says China

India needs to shift focus from its border with Pakistan to that with China, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said on January 12, 2018.

Army chief's 'unconstructive' comments will hurt tranquility in border areas, says China
File photo

Beijing: China on Sunday hit out at Army Chief General Bipin Rawat for calling Doklam a disputed territory and said that his 'unconstructive' comments were not helpful for maintaining peace at the borders.

"During the past one year, relations between China and India witnessed some twists and turns," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.

"Recently, two sides enhanced dialogue on consultations, and bilateral relations have shown sound momentum of improvement and development. Under such background, the unconstructive remarks by the Indian senior officials not only go against the consensus reached by the two heads of state, and do not conform to the efforts made by the two sides to improve and develop bilateral relations. It cannot help to preserve tranquillity and peace in the border areas," he added.

Asked what were Gen Rawat's specific comments that China is taking exception to, Lu pointed to the Army chief's remarks on Doklam wherein he said it is a disputed territory between Bhutan and China.

He reiterated China's stand that the Sikkim section of the India-China boundary has been delimited by the 1890 'historical convention' between the then British government and China, which Beijing claims settled the boundary in that particular section spanning to about 200 kms.

China wants India to settle the boundary in that particular section based on the treaty while the two sides negotiated for a settlement for the rest of the LAC which spans about 3,488 kms. So far the two sides have held 20 rounds of border talks to resolve the issue.

On its part, Bhutan had lodged a diplomatic protest with China when Chinese troops began building a road in the Doklam area in June. Indian troops had objected to the construction of the road resulting in a 73-day standoff.

The standoff was resolved after Chinese troops stopped road building and India withdrew its troops from the area.

On Gen Rawat's comments that China is exhorting pressure on India along the LAC, Lu said, "if he refers to the situation in whole India-China boundary, I have also said that last September the two heads of state have reached important consensus during the Xiamen (BRICS) summit".

"Both sides have maintained effective communication since then. The aim is to enhance strategic mutual trust and create enabling atmosphere for strategic communication. Recently, the bilateral relations have shown positive momentum." Lu said, referring to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to India in December followed by 20th round of border talks between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

The Chinese reaction came following comments by Gen Rawat two days ago that India needs to shift focus from its border with Pakistan to that of China and spoke of pressure being exerted by Beijing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On January 12, 2018,  Gen Rawat had also cautioned that the country cannot allow its neighbours to drift towards China, virtually asking the government to effectively implement its 'neighbourhood first' policy.

Admitting that Chinese troops have been ramping up pressure along the LAC, he had asserted that China may be a powerful country but India too was not a weak nation.

Gen Rawat had further said that countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have to be kept on board as part of a broader strategy to deal with China and India must make "wholehearted" efforts to continue extending support to them.

Underlining the need for shifting attention from the western border with Pakistan to the northern frontier with China, he had said, "For too long, we have kept our focus on the western front. I think time has come for us to focus on the northern border. Therefore, our infrastructure development on the northern border has to be speeded up."

(With PTI inputs)