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Members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong, Hong Kong | Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
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After last year’s stand-off, India has drawn a ‘red line’ near Torsa Nullah that cuts through the Doklam Plateau in Bhutan.

New Delhi: The Chinese troops have not crossed the “red line” in Bhutan’s Doklam area, Indian Army sources have said.

News agency PTI reported Thursday that the Chinese have continued extending their road in the disputed Bhutanese plateau towards India. The Washington-datelined story comes hours before a Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping meeting at the BRICS (Brazil Russia, India China and South Africa) summit in South Africa.

A spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs also said the news report from Washington was “incorrect”.

Indian and Chinese troops were locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball stand-off for 70 days at the high-altitude point last year.

The “red line” that India has laid down is the Torsa Nullah, which cuts through the Doklam Plateau, bifurcating its north and south, according to the Army sources.

The 17 (Black Cat) Mountain Division of the Army is watching the situation, said the sources. Troops of the division had stepped into Bhutan to stop the Chinese last year.

Visibility is blurred for satellite imagery because of a thick cloud cover. This is the time of the heaviest showers in that part of the subcontinent.

When Indian troops reached Bhutan to stop the Chinese on 17 June last year, it was dry.

“They have not crossed the Torsa Nullah. As far as we know it has been status-quo since August 2017,” said an Army source.

The sources said that when the troops pulled back last August, the understanding between the Indian and Chinese armies was that each side would stay at least 500 m away from the Torsa Nullah, one of many rivulets that flow into the Torsa River and to the Jaldhaka in north Bengal.

There is some confusion on the reference to the Torsa Nullah because of the network of tributaries (as narrow as streams) that flow west to east in the Eastern Himalayas. All of them ultimately flow into the Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh.

“Whatever the Chinese are doing is limited to the area that they were in earlier,” said the Army source.

It means that the Chinese are reinforcing themselves in north Doklam.

India’s concern over activities in Doklam when troops stepped into Bhutan last year was because the Army perceived the Chinese were building a road to Jampheri Ridge. From atop the Jampheri Ridge on the Bengal-Bhutan border, the streetlights of Siliguri can be seen at night.

An Army officer said the report from Washington that quoted unnamed sources could have come because “they also know we are observing Kargil Vijay Divas” to mark the victory over the 1999 war.

“I would reiterate that since the disengagement of Indian and Chinse border personnel in the Doklam area on 28 August 2017, there have been no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity,” said the MEA spokesperson.

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