After the 73-day standoff at the Doklam plateau at the India-China border in Nathu La, Sikkim, made major headlines in 2017, things between the two nations have been relatively calm. PM Narendra Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping have also met several times since and the relations seemed to have thawed.
But a top US official recently raised concerns, when she spoke about how Beijing had resumed its construction activities at the plateau and the People's Liberation Army had scaled up its activities at the border.
Confirming the same, sources told News18 that China is indeed resuming its projects and has once again begun constructing roads in the area. It was revealed that a "major construction" work on the 12-kilometre stretch started on March 23 and the PLA is looking to connect Doklam with a Chinese military base named Yatung.
The sources added that the Chinese have come with all the required materials – over 10 construction vehicles, five temporary sheds, 30 other heavy vehicles and about 90 tents that house the army and the construction workers. It has also been said that some of the tents have been put up just to conceal the work from Indian satellites.
What the US official said
Questions on Chinese construction were raised by Congresswomen Anne Wagner who said that the PLA had resumed its activities at the border and India was yet to object to it.
Although both countries back down, China has quietly resumed its activities in Doklam and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it. China's activities in the Himalayas remind me of its south China Sea policies. How should our failure to respond to the militarisation of the South China Sea inform the international response to these Himalayan border disputes?" Wagner had earlier said.
To this, G Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, had said that India is surely defending its borders and anything that threatens its safely is evidently a serious concern to the country.
India refutes claims of Chinese buildup
However, the Indian government has said that there has been no such Chinese activity at Doklam since the troops withdrew last year.
The press reports attributing remarks on Doklam to a US official is incorrect. The reference to Doklam was made by Congresswoman Anne Wagner in the form of a question posed to the senior State Department Official Alice G. Wells," the Economic Times quoted a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs as saying.
"Ms Wells, in her reply, made no reference to the situation in Doklam and said that India is vigorously defending its northern borders and this is a subject of concern to India. I would reiterate that since the disengagement of Indian and Chinese border personnel in the Doklam area on 28 August 2017, there have been no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity. The status quo prevails in this area."
The MEA had to release a similar statement in October 2017 as well, when it was said that many soldiers of the PLA were still present at the border. Some reports had even cited satellite imagery, which reportedly showed the deployment of Chinese troops in the region.
"The status quo prevails in the area and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect and mischievous,'' MEA had said.