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23 Feb 2018

Bhutan is ‘firmly’ with India on Doklam issue, say top govt officials

India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year .PTI, New Delhi: Bhutan is “firmly” with India on the Doklam issue, top government officials old a parliamentary panel on Thursday and reiterated there had been no troop buildup by China in the region since its standoff with India ended in August last year.

This was conveyed by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, which is looking into various aspects of the India-China military standoff at Doklam, a source who was present in the meeting said on the condition of anonymity.

Bhutan was firmly with India on the Doklam issue, the source quoted the top officials as telling the panel while replying to queries on the recent visit of Army Chief Bipin Rawat, NSA Ajit Doval and Gokhale to that country.

The members also asked the officials about reports on the possibility of land being transferred by Bhutan to China in the Doklam region in exchange for territory in another area.

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed trijunction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is also a member of the panel, asked what China’s goal was on Doklam and why Beijing chose the region to create a confrontation.

Gandhi also asked about reports of a major Chinese buildup near Doklam, to which the officials replied that nothing has been done in Indian territory.

Members also questioned the foreign secretary about the “one belt one road” (OBOR) project and the scale of Chinese investment in India.

Gokhale replied the project was not in India’s interest, another source said.

At the beginning of the meeting, BJP members expressed concern over the Doklam issue coming up again when the foreign secretary and other top government officials had already briefed the panel more than once on the matter, the sources added.

BJP MP Sharad Tripathi also wanted to know why other experts had been called when the foreign secretary and defence secretary were already there to brief the panel.

Earlier in the day, the panel was briefed by former Army chief Deepak Kapoor, former ambassador to China Nalin Surie and military intelligence veteran and retired Army officer Vinayak Bhat.

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