The chief of staff for India’s army appeared to downplay the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the disputed Doklam region that lies near the border shared by the two rival nations.
On Wednesday, Indian Gen. Bipin Rawat described “infrastructure development” by the PLA as “temporary in nature,” reports India TV News.
“As far as Doklam is concerned PLA soldiers are there in a part of the area, although not in numbers that we saw them in initially. They have carried out some infrastructure development, which is mostly temporary in nature,” the top General Rawat reportedly declared.
“While troops (PLA) may have returned and infrastructure remains, it is anybody’s guess whether they would come back there, or is it because of the winters that they could not take their equipment. But we are also there, so in case they come, we will face them,” added.
Beijing has “taken some infrastructure development activities in the disputed region” north of Doklam, notes India TV News.
The Doklam territory, known as Donglang in China, lies near the area where India, Bhutan, and Tibet meet.
Beijing denied any knowledge or involvement in the attempt by Chinese troops to enter Indian territory at the time.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals escalated after Indian troops “physically prevented” China from stretching the road but eventually subsided.
Less than a month after China allegedly beefed up its military presence near Doklam in December, India allegedly thwarted a repeated attempt by Beijing to build the road.
The Indian Express learned from anonymous sources that residents of the area spotted Chinese construction workers and informed the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
Joined by the Indian army, the ITBP urged the Chinese workers to return to their side of the border.
“The area has been barricaded, and is being jointly manned by the ITBP and Army,” noted the Express in early January.
Last October, news reports alleged that about 1,000 Chinese troops had remained in the Doklam region in the wake of the confrontation between Beijing and New Delhi.
Now, the Economic Times, citing the Print, notes, “1,600-1,800 Chinese troops had virtually established a permanent presence in the Doklam area … with the construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, scores of pre-fabricated huts, shelters, and stores to withstand the freezing winter in the high-altitude region.”