Talking tough, China today demanded withdrawal of Indian troops from the Sikkim sector as a pre-condition for a "meaningful dialogue" to resolve the current stand-off there and asked the Indian Army to learn from "historical lessons", an oblique reference to the 1962 war. Launching a media blitzkrieg on the Sikkim stand-off, both Chinese Foreign and Defence ministries directed their attacks on India and maintained that the Indian Army had "illegally trespassed" into the Chinese territory.
"We urge the Indian side to immediately pull back the border troops to the Indian side of the boundary. That is the precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides aiming at resolving the issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
The People's Liberation Army spokesman, Col Wu Qian also rejected as "extremely irresponsible" Army chief General Bipin Rawat's remarks that India is ready for a "two-and-a-half front war", asking him to "stop clamouring for war". Rawat had said that India is prepared for security threats posed by China, Pakistan as well as by internal threats.
When asked to respond to Rawat's remarks, Col Wu said: "Such rhetoric is extremely irresponsible". "We hope that the particular person in the Indian Army could learn from historical lessons and stop such clamouring for war."
The genesis of the flashpoint was China's attempts to build a road at strategically key area of Donglong, the linking of which to the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction could give China a major military advantage over India. The Indian Army had blocked construction of the road by China in Donglong, a disputed territory between China and Bhutan.
Of the 3,488-km-long India-China border from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, a 220-km section falls in Sikkim. Official sources said China had removed an old bunker of the Indian Army in Donglong by using a bulldozer after the Indian side refused to accede to its request, which triggered the face-off.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu displayed two photographs of the alleged Indian "incursion" into Donglong area in the Sikkim region during a media briefing. He said the Sikkim stand-off between the troops of the two countries can only be settled by the withdrawal of Indian soldiers from the area.
"Since the illegal trespass happened we have lodged solemn representations with the Indian side in both New Delhi and Beijing," Lu said, showing the photographs from the podium.
Later, the ministry uploaded two photographs on its website along with the Chinese transcript of Lu's press briefing.
One photo showed two bulldozers stated to be that of the Indian military while another showed one bulldozer. A redline in the photos was showed as "Chinese side of the border".
In the briefing, Lu said the diplomatic channel for communications between the two countries remains "unimpeded".
Replying to pointed questions by the Chinese official media about Indian Army chief Gen Rawat's remarks that there was no incursion, Lu said, "We have said clearly here that the reality is that the Indian border troops illegally trespassed into the Chinese territory across the Sikkim section."
"Gen Rawat's remarks also prove that the previous report by the Indian media was not true. The truth cannot be covered up. We again urge the Indian side to abide by the historical boundary convention," he said, referring to China's assertion in the past few days that Sikkim section of the India-China boundary was settled under the Sino-British Treaty of 1890 which Beijing also claims was accepted by India later.
Lu said India should respect China's territorial sovereignty and withdraw the troops back to the Indian side of the boundary to avoid any escalations.
To another question whether the "overstepping" by the Indian troops violated international law and the basic principles of international relations, Lu said the Sikkim sector of the China-Indian border has a very clear legal basis.
"According to the convention between China and Great Britain relating to Sikkim and Tibet, in 1890, the boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into Sikkim, Teesta and its effluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu, then northwards into other rivers of Tibet," he said.
"The line commences at the mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier. According to this convention, the Doklong region belongs to China's territory," he said, alleging that India troops trespassed the area.
"This is an undeniable fact that the Indian troops have trespassed the boundary and it is violating our historical boundary convention as well as the promises made by the previous Indian governments," he added.
About the demarche by Bhutan asking China to stop road construction in the Donglang area, Lu said Donglang has been China's territory since "ancient times". "This is an indisputable reality and we have very adequate legal basis concerning this. This is just a sovereign action by China to conduct road constructions in our territory. This is totally justifiable and lawful."
The Chinese media also carried stories on the Sikkim stand-off, saying India's defeat in the 1962 war is having a "lingering effect". "Being defeated by China in 1962 has left a lingering effect on India," an article in China.com, a Chinese portal said, alleging that India is trying to seek political and diplomatic power as well as military superiority.
About the Sikkim stand-off it said India is making "unfounded charges" through the Indian media. An article in the Global Times' Chinese edition said while the Sikkim part of the India-China border is settled most of the disputes occurred in the western part.