China building helipads, trenches in Doklam: Sitharaman

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New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) China has built helipads, trenches and other infrastructure in Doklam to maintain its troops during winters, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday.

Asked if it is a fact that China has constructed seven helipads in Doklam and tanks and missiles have been stationed there, Sitharaman, in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha said that the troops on both sides have “redeployed themselves away from their stand-off positions” but the troop strengths on both sides have gone down.

“In order to maintain these troops during the winter, the People Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads,” Sitharaman said.

The Indian troops were engaged in a two-and-a-half-month stand-off with the Chinese troops in Doklam plateau in the Sikkim sector which ended in August last year.

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Steering clear of a direct response to the second part of the question asked by Congress leader Motilal Vora as to whether China can use this infrastructure against India or if India spoke with China on this particular issue, Sitharaman just said the government “regularly” takes up such issues with China.

“The Indian government regularly takes up the issues pertaining to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the Chinese side through established mechanisms including border personnel meetings, flag meetings, meetings of working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs, as well as through diplomatic channels,” she said.

A few days back, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre had, while addressing an army event, said that the situation along the LAC is “sensitive” and has the “potential of escalation”.

On Monday, in a written reply to a question, Bhamre told the Upper House of Parliament that “situations arise on the ground” with PLA due to varying perceptions of LAC by the two sides.

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“There is no commonly delineated LAC in the border areas between India and China. From time to time, on account of differences in the perception of LAC, situations have arisen on the ground that could have been avoided if we had a common perception of LAC,” Bhamre said.

He added that India “consistently maintains” that peace and tranquillity on the India-China border is an “important pre-requisite” for the smooth development of bilateral relations.

The junior Defence Minister also said that the Indian government is “aware” of China’s stated objective of becoming a “maritime power”.

“As part of this strategy, China is developing ports and other infrastructure facilities in the littoral countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), including in the vicinity of India’s maritime boundary,” Bhamre said.

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“The government is also aware that under its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, China is undertaking projects for development of infrastructure facilities in several countries in the region.”

On a report by Pentagon that China is setting up a military base in Pakistan, Bhamre said the government has seen media reports in this regard and “keeps a constant watch on such developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it”.

However, the Minister said that India and China have agreed that the relationships pursued by them with other countries “must not become a source of concern for each other”.

“Both countries have agreed to display mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns and aspirations,” he added.

–IANS

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