India mum on troop numbers in Doklam

New Delhi


India on Friday declined to get into China's claim that the number of Indian troops in Doklam area has come down.

"As far as questions regarding deployment are concerned, these are operational matters whether on our side or the other side," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in response to a question at his weekly media briefing here.

"I wouldn't like to specifically go into them," he said.

China in a statement on Wednesday had claimed that there were around 400 Indian troops in the area "at one point", and by end of July there were 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer "illegally staying over Chinese territory".

Troops of both countries are locked in a stand off along the border in Sikkim sector, after China attempted road construction in Bhutanese territory around mid-June. China has demanded that India withdraw its troops for dialogue to begin, while New Delhi says that both sides should simultaneously withdraw troops. 

Baglay, however, reaffirmed India's position on the issue which is that peace and tranquility should prevail along the border for bilateral relations to develop.

He referred to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's statement in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that India would continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels "to find a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of the Astana Consensus between our leaders".

Asked about India's position following the release of a 15-page document by China on the issue, Baglay referred to his statement on Wednesday wherein he said that "India considers that peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas is an important pre-requisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations with China".

Regarding Beijing's claims that it had informed New Delhi on May 18 and again on June 8 that it would build a road in that area, he said: "I have read that statement. But I don't think it is correct for us to go into every detail of diplomatic interactions."

To a question on whether Bhutan had sought India's help in the first place, the spokesperson referred to a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry on June 30 and said: "We mentioned very clearly that in keeping with the tradition of maintaining close consultations in matters of mutual interest, Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of India have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments." - IANS