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Friday 21st
posted by James Tweedie in World

INDIA is ready to hold talks with China if both sides pull back their forces from the disputed border along the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament yesterday that a 2012 agreement bound China and India to settle the issue with Bhutan.

A month-long border standoff between the two nations was triggered in mid-June when China began constructing a road into the Doklam Plateau — an area which is currently disputed between Bhutan and Beijing. The Himalayan kingdom appealed for help from its ally India which supports Bhutan’s claim over the plateau.

Ms Swaraj said the Chinese infrastructure project threatened the status quo in the region.

“If China unilaterally changes the status quo of the tri-junction, it becomes a matter of security concern for India,” she said, referring to the area where the three countries meet.

New Delhi has argued that the road would give Chinese forces easy access to the narrow “chicken’s neck” corridor north of Bangladesh leading to the north-east Indian-state of Sikkim which also lies on the border of the plateau.

Since the stand-off began, both sides have reinforced their military presence at the border while urging the other to back down. At the weekend Chinese troops held live-fire exercises by 4,000-7,000 soldiers.

This was met on Monday by India moving 200,000 troops — about a sixth of the army’s active strength — to the region, according to the South China Morning Post.

This is not the first time that clashes have occured at the tri-junction border. India and China fought a month-long war over in the Docklam Plateau in 1962, and smaller clashes broke out in 1967.

Responding to India’s call for talks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated that his country will only engage in negotiations if India withdraws its border guards.

The latest dispute between India and China is among many as the neighbours share a 2,200-mile border, much of which is contested.

On Wednesday former Indian defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party, claimed China “has joined hands with Pakistan” to attack India, NDTV reported.

Mr Yadav told parliament that China had “buried” nuclear weapons in Pakistan.