With BRICS summit in sight, India and China have agreed to an “expeditious disengagement” of troops in Doklam, a disputed border area in Bhutan where their soldiers have been locked in a standoff for more than two months.
On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops entered the Doklam plateau in Bhutan to build a road. The issue began when Indian backed the Royal Bhutanese Army’s stance and told China to cease their construction. Following this India sent its troops as they claimed that the “The Chinese military activity in Doklam was a threat to their own North-Eastern boundaries”. In response, China said India had no role to play in the area and insisted it withdraw unilaterally or faces the prospect of an escalation. Chinese state media warned India of a fate far worse than its crushing defeat in war in 1962. The source of China’s claim over Doklam and the tri-junction at Mount Gipomachi is the 1890 convention signed between Great Britain and China’s Qing Empire on the borders of Sikkim and Tibet.
When this issue escalated to the international forum, China’s Diplomacy was no match to India’s in convincing the world leaders that the communist nation was at fault for violating international laws at the disputed zone. The US and UK requested the matter to be resolved diplomatically and bilaterally and did not support China’s firm demand on Indian troops being withdrawn from Doklam first. Moreover, Doklam was strategically unviable as they were sandwiched between Sikkim and India’s ally Bhutan.
As China failed on both diplomatic and strategic count, they were forced to disengage from the conflicted zone. Effectively, disengagement means China has been beaten back by India, and the message that goes out at the end of this will conflict with Chinese interests. It estimated that China’s submission will inhibit its plan to set up economic footprints in Africa using its ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy.
The whole affair paints China as a bully who barks but does not bite. This quarrel should serve as a lesson to India to step up defence preparedness and not lower its vigilance along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
By Anishkumar SS