India and China deploy thousands of troops near restive Sikkim border

Dalai Lama visits monastery in disputed Arunachal Pradesh regionReuters

India and China have reportedly deployed thousands of troops in frontier positions of the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim. The alleged deployment comes on the heels of a tense phase between the two countries accompanied by sharp warnings.

The purported mobilisation of about roughly 3,000 troops on the Indian side to counter a similar number inside the Chinese territory reportedly took place just as Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat landed in Sikkim on Thursday, 29 June. Cross-border tensions at a crucial tri-junction where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet, rapidly escalated in recent days due to a road construction by Beijing.

There is no word either from the Indian civilian or military leadership on the reported deployment of the troops. However, sources told the Times of India daily that as many as 3,000 soldiers from each side have been positioned in the border region in an "eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation".

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"Both sides are as yet not willing to budge from their positions. Flag meetings and other talks between the rival commanders have not worked till now," a source said.

Rawat arrived in Sikkim, in what was called a routine visit to the state, to oversee operational readiness of his personnel. During his scheduled two-day tour, the Indian military head is holding discussions with several top commanders in the region.

From the Chinese side, the defence ministry, which earlier accused Indian troops of trespassing, has reiterated its stand asking the Indian personnel to back off. "Our border guards have taken necessary measures in response and they will resolutely preserve the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesman for the ministry, said.

The last time the two countries engaged militarily in Sikkim was in 1967 and Beijing did not fail to remind India of the conflict.

At the nucleus of the latest standoff is a road built by China in Doklam, also called Donglang, which is located at a tri-junction of India, Tibet and Bhutan. The structure is vehemently opposed by Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom, which also shares a border with Sikkim. Doklam is under Chinese control but is also claimed by Bhutan.

Indian soldiers march during the Republic Day parade in New DelhiAdnan Abidi/Reuters

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