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Dokalam: Parliamentary panel report smoothens rough edges

Dokalam: Parliamentary panel report smoothens rough edgesNEW DELHI: The recently released External Affairs Parliamentary Committee report on China that focussed on Sino-Indian ties, including last year’s border standoff is the sanitised version of what the previous and current foreign secretaries had revealed about Beijing's intentions through the Dokalam episode while briefing members of the Committee in October 2017 and February 2018, respectively. However, during their briefings, the current and previous foreign secretaries were far more candid than what the report points out, ET has learnt.

Sources said the senior diplomats admitted during briefings that this was longest standoff that India faced along the Line of Actual Control.

They also admitted that seriousness of Chinese equipment and rhetoric were unique and also admitted that in recent memory no such incident occurred. It is believed that senior diplomats have told the Parliamentary Committee members that their understanding is that the Chinese side might come back in Dokalam area one day and noted that the Chinese side is a bit dodgy. Sources informed that the Chinese side was given sufficient warnings against changing status quo along Dokalam and when warnings went unheeded India acted.

These portions, sources said, were removed after a meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Committee Chairman Shashi Tharoor. It was agreed that the frank conversation may also become an impediment to conduct meaningful diplomacy if made public. The testimonies had gone into considerable details, including past incidents starting from 1966 down to 2007, when the Chinese destroyed Indian bunkers in the area.

According to the released report, the face-off in Dokalam area of Bhutan started when a large construction party of the People’s Liberation Army entered the area 16 June 2017, and tried to alter the status quo by building a road in the Dokalam region in violation of China’s existing understandings both with Bhutan and India.

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“In close consultation and coordination with Bhutan, Indian personnel present at general area Doka La sought to dissuade Chinese personnel from this attempted change in the ground situation. Since their urgings did not yield the desired result, a face-off situation emerged with the Chinese and Indian personnel deployed in close proximity…The matter was also discussed between India and China at the diplomatic level in the Foreign Ministries, both in New Delhi and Beijing. India conveyed to the Chinese Government that such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India," the report recalls.

"On the basis of India’s diplomatic communication with China, wherein we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests, the issue was eventually resolved with the disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Dokalam on 28 August 2017. This also addressed India’s concerns about China’s road construction activities in the Southern Dokalam region."

"Following Prime Minister’s conversation with the Chinese President in Hamburg on July 7, 2017 on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit, we initiated diplomatic communications with the Chinese side in Beijing thereafter to seek a resolution of this issue. Thirteen rounds of diplomatic discussions were held. These were led by our Ambassador in Beijing. From time to time, appropriate officials from headquarters joined him to assist in these discussions," the then Foreign Secretary Jaishankar had told the committee members in October 2017.

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