In a significant act of support for India in its protracted military standoff with China at Doklam, near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan trijunction, Japan has said there should be no attempt to change the status quo on the ground by force.
The Japanese statement comes as an endorsement of the Indian position that China has violated agreements with India and Bhutan in attempting to build a road through Doklam plateau, which is part of Bhutan, a development that would be a serious disadvantage to India’s military defences.
Japanese ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu’s observation on Doklam comes two months after Indian troops stalled Chinese road construction activities and is seen as endorsing India’s stance as being impor tant for a peaceful resolution.
The Japanese reaction follows two separate interventions by the US calling for direct dialogue between India and China to resolve the crisis while cautioning against unilateral changes on the ground. This, too, has been seen as supportive of India’s point of view.
The US has also indicated support for India by tagging the Hizbul Mujahideen and its leader, Syed Salahuddin, as sources of terror, a snub to Pakistan and its benefactor, China.
Saying Japan was watching the situation closely , Hiramatsu said it had the potential to affect regional stability. “As far as India’s role is concerned, we understand that India is involved in this incident based on bilateral agreements with Bhutan. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has made it clear that India would continue to engage with dialogue through diplomatic channels with China to find a mutually acceptable solution. We consider this attitude towards peaceful resolution important,” Hiramatsu said.
Categorising the crisis as a dispute between China and Bhutan, Hiramatsu said India’s actions were in keeping with bilateral security arrangements with Bhutan.
Making a pointed reference to China’s stance on Doklam, the Japanese ambassador said, “What’s important in disputed areas is that all parties involved do not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, and resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.” The American and Japanese statements come after angry Chinese rhetoric denouncing India and its actions in the Doklam plateau and demanding a full withdrawal before any talks. India, determined to hold its ground at the site, is preparing for a long standoff, perhaps stretching through the winter.
On Wednesday, the US called on India and China to hold a direct dialogue. US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We are encouraging both parties to sit down and have direct dialogue.” On August 11, the US had called for talks, adding the standoff was being watched closely. “As you know, we have relationships with both governments. We encourage both parties to have conversations,” it said.