Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui Received Interview with Ms. Priyanka of PTI on Face-off Incident in Doklam
2017-07-07 20:00

Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui Received Interview with Ms. Priyanka of PTI on Face-off Incident in Doklam

(July 4, 2017)

It's my great pleasure to have the interview with you. Press Trust of India (PTI) is the most influential news agency in India. I would like to convey China's position on the recent face-off between Chinese and Indian border forces in the Doklam area through you.

Q : Your Excellency, thank you very much to receive my exclusive interview. My first question is what's your view on the current situation in the Doklam area.

A: The situation is grave and made me deeply worried. It is the first time that Indian troops have crossed the mutually recognized boundary and trespassed into China's territory, triggering a close range face-off between Chinese and Indian border troops. Now 19 days has passed, but the situation still has not eased.

I have worked on the China-India relations and the China-India boundary affairs for over 3 decades. From my experiences, it is the first time that such a severe situation has occurred at the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary. This section has already been delimited with clear alignment of the boundary, the two sides have consensus on it and there has been no incident over the past years. This time, the Indian border forces trespassed into the mutually recognized Sikkim section of the China-India boundary, which is different in nature from the previous frictions between the two sides at the undefined sections of the China-India boundary. The Chinese government has no space to make compromise on it.

The Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet (1890) explicitly stipulates that Doklam undoubtedly belongs to China's territory. After independence, India inherited this historical convention and successive Indian governments have repeatedly confirmed that in written forms, recognizing that it concurs with China on the boundary alignment at the Sikkim section.

The 1890 Convention is the premise for China to acknowledge the status quo of Sikkim. China's agreement to open the Nathula Pass and to open the new route for Indian Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via the Nathula Pass is also based on it. The 'early harvest' outcome on the boundary question which China and India have discussed in recent years is also meant for this section. We always hold that there are three disputed areas between China and India, including the eastern section, middle section and western section, while the Sikkim section is not included. Even in 1962, the Sikkim section remained peaceful and tranquil. Now the Indian side claims that the boundary at the Sikkim section is not delimited and reiterates that the 1890 Convention only provides the 'basis of the alignment'. The Indian side breached the historical convention and this will sow the seeds of problems for the management of the border area and the bilateral relations.

India also claims that 'Doklam belongs to Bhutan'. But the fact is that Doklam belongs to China and has long been under the effective jurisdiction of China.

China and Bhutan started the boundary talks in 1980s and have held 24 rounds talks until now. Although the two countries have not delimited the boundary formally, the two sides do have basic consensus on the situation in the border areas and the boundary alignment. It is mutually recognized by the two sides that Doklam belongs to China.

India has no right to interfere with the China-Bhutan boundary talks, nor is it entitled to make territorial claims on behalf of Bhutan. The Indian side trespassed into China's territory using Bhutan as a pretext, which not only violated China's territorial sovereignty but also challenged the independence of Bhutan.

As for the allegation that China's road construction activities 'changed the status quo', there has been no dispute about the fact that Doklam is a part of China's territory. Activities conducted by the Chinese side in this area are within China's sovereign right. How can this be labeled as changing the status quo? On the contrary, it is the Indian side that trespassed into China's territory and changed the status quo. Now the status quo can only be restored as long as India withdraws its border forces.

As for the so called 'security concerns' of the Indian side, India has crossed a delimited boundary and trespassed into other country's territory in the name of its own security concerns, no matter what kind of activities it conducts there, which will not be acceptable to any sovereign state. India cannot encroach upon the territory of other countries on the ground of its 'security concerns'. Otherwise, the world would be in chaos.

The Indian side's views are self-contradictory. On one hand, India claims that Doklam belongs to Bhutan. On the other hand, it denies the 1890 Convention and claims that the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary is not delimited and uses it as a pretext for its trespassing into China's territory. This only serves to prove one fact that Doklam belongs to China, neither India nor Bhutan.

Q: How do you think the current situation can be resolved?

A: China's position is very clear. I would like to explain the following three top priorities.

The first one is that the Indian troops pull back to the Indian side of the boundary immediately and unconditionally. That is the precondition for any meaningful dialogue between China and India.

The second one is to seek a peaceful solution. China attaches great importance to the China-India relations and is ready to develop a long-term stable strategic partnership for cooperation with India. The current level of cooperation and friendship between China and India are hard earned and deserve to be cherished by the two sides.

The third one is to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. China has always taken this seriously and done a lot to this end. It needs joint efforts of the two sides. We appreciate what Prime Minister Modiji said in St. Petersburg that over the past 50 years, not a single bullet has been fired at the India-China border areas.

These three top priorities are connected with each other. Only by fulfilling the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of India's military, can peaceful resolution of this issue be achieved. Only by approaching with peaceful resolution, can peace and tranquility of the border areas be maintained. I have full expectation for that.

The Chinese side has made it very clear. Now the ball is in the court of the Indian side. It depends on India's decision on how to ultimately resolve this matter. You may wish to verify with the Indian side.

I would also like to underline that the Chinese side as a victim of the incident has been making its utmost efforts to a peaceful settlement since the breakout of face-off, though Indian troops continue to occupy the Chinese territory. The Chinese side has lodged representations and protest many times through diplomatic channels both in Beijing and New Delhi. Notwithstanding, there are reasons to doubt whether the Indian side is working to meet the Chinese side half way. Shortly before the incident occurred, one top official of the Indian Army said that the Indian Army is completely ready for a two-and-a-half front war. After the incident broke out, another Indian leader said publicly that the India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962. What kind of message do they wish to send essentially? China doesn't provoke, will definitely confront.

Q: Chinese official media have talked a lot about options of war. What's your comment on that?

A: Indian media also have talked a lot about options. I never comment on what media say. Actually, the Government of India holds the key to the solution. The ball is in the court of the Indian side.

Q: Do you think India should have refrained from getting involved in an issue which is essentially between China and Bhutan?

A: It's a good question. Even if there is a dispute on Doklam, it is a dispute between China and Bhutan and has nothing to do with India. Out of its own interests, India gets itself involved in this dispute under the pretext of Bhutan. It does not make any sense. Actually, there is no dispute (on Doklam) between China and Bhutan.

Although India and Bhutan share special relations, Bhutan is after all an independent sovereign country. China and Bhutan as independent sovereign countries have been trying to resolve their boundary issue through peaceful negotiations and they are fully capable to reach a solution. Therefore, the Indian side has no right to intervene.

Q: Your Excellency, do you think the incident will have any negative impact on the India-China bilateral ties?

A: You would not believe in me if I said no. Chinese people are very angry for India's occupation of the Chinese territory, which places Chinese government under great pressure.

The boundary issue is a major sensitive issue between the two countries, which will have significant impact on the bilateral relations. It is critical that India shall withdraw its troops immediately to minimize the negative impact. It serves the interests of the two sides.

Q: There was a great meeting between the leaders of India and China in Astana recently. Is there a possibility of a pull-side or a brief bilateral meeting between the two leaders again on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Germany later this week?

A: The two leaders have met with each other on many multilateral occasions and played an important role in leading the bilateral relations. So far, I have no information as to whether there will be a meeting on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Germany. What I want to stress is that you should follow the development of the situation in Doklam. The meeting and the ground situation are interconnected.

Q: How do you view the future of India-China ties?

A: I have been here as Chinese Ambassador to India for over 9 months. I am always optimistic of the China-India relations. China and India are great neighboring powers as well as members of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The importance of the bilateral relations cannot be emphasized enough. Here's my suggestion. First, we should focus on cooperation. Second, we should well manage such existing issues as the boundary issue. Third, we should uphold a positive attitude to address emerging issues of the bilateral relations. Fourth, we should set a vision for our relations, namely, to achieve 'early harvest' outcome for the boundary talks between China and India, to sign a Treaty on Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between China and India, to restart the negotiation of free trade arrangement between China and India, and to explore the possibility of Belt and Road Initiative to align with India's connectivity plans.

It takes two to tango. I hope that Prime Minister Modiji's explicit depiction that 'Indian and China are of two bodies, one spirit' will be translated into action. The resolution of the Doklam situation will be a test.

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