China has removed an old bunker of the Indian Army located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan in Sikkim by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request, media reports said. The incident that broke out in the first week of June in Doka La general area in Sikkim had led to a face-off between the two forces, triggering tension in the Sikkim section of the India-China border, the PTI reported, citing official sources.
The forcible removal of the old bunker by using heavy machinery like a bulldozer came when the Indian side did not agree to a request by the Chinese authorities to dismantle it, the sources said. China is believed to have not taken kindly to India building many new bunkers and upgrading older ones along the border in Sikkim in the recent past to augment its defences against the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the sources said.
Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim.
Beijing is also upset with New Delhi over the recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, the sources said, adding they were also trying to escalate tension in the forward areas, including in Sikkim, even though the border in the northeastern state is demarcated.
The Sikkim government has also sent a report to the central government giving details of the situation along the border following the stand-off in Doka La.
The first batch of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims comprising about 50 people returned from Nathu La border post as the stand-off between India and China continues. The pilgrims returned to Gangtok on June 23 after staying in Nathu La for three days awaiting permission from the Chinese side to undertake the onward journey.
The second batch of the pilgrims did not move from Gangtok while pilgrims were told to go home as the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is unlikely to continue this year via Nathu La.
The Sikkim route to Mansarovar, which is in Tibet, was thrown open to public in 2015.
The visas for the third batch, comprising about 50 pilgrims, were not given yet. A total of 8-10 batches were supposed to go for the pilgrimage through Nathu La this year. Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said yesterday that 100 pilgrims were sent back by China despite they having a Chinese visa.
The sources said the Chinese side has mentioned a broken bridge as being the reason for the pilgrims not being able to cross into Tibet for the annual yatra.
Sikkim is a part of the middle sector and experts have been warning the government of increased Chinese activities in this area.
Future Kailash Mansarovar visits only if India 'correct its errors': China
China today warned India that future visits of its pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar through the Nathu La pass will depend on whether it will "correct its errors". Beijing also termed the construction of a road in the Sikkim sector of the Sino-India border as "legitimate", asserting that it was being built on Chinese territory that neither belongs to India nor Bhutan and no other country had
the right to interfere.
"Donglang is part of China's territory. This is indisputable. The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn't belong to Bhutan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media here.
"India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor it belongs to India. So we have complete legal basis for this. Chinese construction of the road project is legitimate and normal action on its territory. No other country has the right to interfere," he said while replying to a question.
Lu defended China's decision to shut the Nathu La pass in Sikkim for Indian pilgrims, saying that China had agreed to open the route as the boundary there has been delineated with the consent of both the countries.
China yesterday lodged a protest with India over the alleged "crossing of boundary" by its troops in the Sikkim sector and demanded their immediate withdrawal, as Beijing warned that future visits of Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar will depend on the resolution of the standoff.
The last such transgression had happened in Sikkim in November 2008 when Chinese soldiers destroyed some makeshift Indian Army bunkers there.
(With PTI inputs)