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6 Jul 2017

China offers pilgrimage talks amid row

Charu Sudan Kasturi and PTI, TT, June 5: China has offered discussions on alternative routes for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage to compensate for the closure of the Nathu La path because of border tensions, three days before a likely meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Neither India nor China has confirmed but Modi and Xi are expected to meet in Hamburg on the margins of the G20 Summit on July 7-8.
India and China are locked in a cycle of escalating rhetoric over a standoff near the Sikkim tri-junction where their borders also meet Bhutan's.
China's proposal today, Indian officials said, suggests a subtle olive branch for talks to resolve the spat. Beijing had earlier said talks were conditional on India first withdrawing troops from the tri-junction.
China has shut the Nathu La pass route for Indian pilgrims, which was opened in 2015, insisting that Indian troops withdraw from the spot where they are eyeball to eyeball with Chinese troops. Nathu La is in Sikkim.
"We are willing to discuss the possibility of alternative arrangements through other routes for Indian official yatris who had planned to visit Kailash and Mansarovar via Nathu La Pass," Xie Liyan, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi said in a statement today.
The current standoff is located in what Bhutan insists is disputed territory between it and China. A Chinese road-building project there triggered the spat. Bhutan asked Indian troops to intervene on their behalf, which they did.
Now, China is accusing Indian troops of illegally standing in its territory, while India and Bhutan insist they are only maintaining "status quo" over disputed territory.
China has stepped up public rhetoric daily, and some of its prominent state-owned dailies have asked Beijing to "teach India a lesson".
Panchsheel punch
China today accused India of "trampling" on the 1954 Panchsheel Treaty, the five principles of peaceful coexistence that form the bedrock of relations between the neighbours, and urged New Delhi to "correct its mistakes" by pulling back troops from the disputed area in the Sikkim sector, PTI adds from Beijing.
China said it had a "basic consensus" with Bhutan on the boundary and there is no dispute between two countries in the Doklam area.
"I want to point out that the relevant actions by the Indian side violated the purposes and principles of the UN Charter in defiance of the international law and international norms. As we all know, in the 1950s China, India and Myanmar had proposed the five principles (Panchsheel) of co-existence," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Gen Shuang told reporters in Beijing.
"However, to the surprise of everyone, the Indian side trampled on the basic norms governing the international relations proposed by itself by illegally crossing over into another country's territory," he added.
Panchsheel had been emphasised by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a speech made at the time of the Asian Prime Ministers' Conference in Sri Lanka a few days after the signing of the treaty. Nehru had said: "If these principles were recognised in the mutual relations of all countries, then indeed there would hardly be any conflict and certainly no war."
Can be solved: India
The border standoff can be resolved diplomatically and Chinese soldiers should leave the Bhutanese territory to reduce tension in the area, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre said today.
"I think the issue can be resolved at the diplomatic level. The Chinese troops should stay where they were earlier. China is approaching towards Bhutanese territory. We want them not to come forward. This is our security concern and this is our stand. Bhutan's King had yesterday given a statement that Chinese (troops) are entering into its territory. This tension can be resolved at the diplomatic level. Across the table we can solve all the problems," Bhamre said.

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