India and China announce end of Doklam standoff - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 28 August 2017

India and China announce end of Doklam standoff

Big win for India that will enhance its status with South Asian neighbours

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Aug 17

The 71-day military standoff at Doklam, on the tri-junction of the Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese borders, has been defused without armed confrontation and bloodshed.

In a coordinated announcement on Monday, the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries both announced that troops were disengaging at the Doklam bowl, where they have been in eyeball-to-eyeball contact since June 16, when the Indian Army moved hundreds of soldiers and two bulldozers into the disputed area to block road construction by China.

On Monday, New Delhi stated that, after weeks of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries, “expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going.”

Meanwhile, Beijing announced that “On the afternoon of August 28, the Indian side has pulled back all the trespassing personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary and the Chinese personnel on the ground has (sic) verified this.”

Indian government sources say the challenge during the negotiations over withdrawal was to maintain Chinese “face”, while obtaining an assurance from Beijing that it would halt road building in the area, an activity that India’s military says compromises its defensive positions.

This issue was intelligently finessed with Beijing announcing: “China will continue to exercise its sovereignty and uphold its territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions.” No mention was made of China’s right to build a road in Doklam.

Regional watchers have speculated whether the disengagement agreement provided for China to establish diplomatic relations with Bhutan, something that India has discouraged under the terms of a treaty between New Delhi and Thimphu. However, well-informed media sources in Thimphu deny any such quid pro quo.

India has never objected to China patrolling the Doklam bowl, which is disputed between China and Bhutan. A Chinese road, however, is regarded as an unacceptable change in the status quo, which is expressly forbidden by a 2012 agreement between Beijing and New Delhi.

In a marked change of tone from the hostility that had pervaded official Chinese statements and official media reportage since the Doklam faceoff began, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesperson stated on Monday: “The Chinese government highly values its friendly relationship with India. We hope India can fulfill the historic agreement on the border and safeguard the stability of the border area with China.”

Even as soldiers built up on both sides towards the end of June and a barrage of strident statements emanated from Beijing, the Indian government maintained a discreet silence except for an official press release on June 30, laying down India’s version of events.

The release, entitled “Recent Developments in Doklam Area” stated that India had intervened to block Chinese road building activity after a Royal Bhutan Army patrol had tried to stop the Chinese, who were in violation of two agreements between China and Bhutan. Indicating that India had intervened at Bhutan’s behest, the release stated that Thimphu and New Delhi “have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments.”

New Delhi also justified its intervention in terms of its own national interest, stating: “Such [road] construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India.”

This addressed the weak point in India’s argument, which was to explain why it had intervened in territory that it has no claim over. Since the crisis began, China has put pressure on Bhutan to ask Indian troops to withdraw from the Doklam bowl.

Chin had insisted throughout this crisis that Indian troops were “trespassers” into “undisputed Chinese territory”, and that they must withdraw from Doklam as a pre-condition for resolving the crisis. For most observers of Sino-Indian relations, the mutual withdrawal is a huge win for India that will significantly enhance its regional status and its standing with South Asian neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Another feature of this crisis is Bhutan’s remarkable and consistent demonstration of support to India. Thimphu first confronted Beijing through a demarche on June 20 and then a government statement on June 29, protesting China’s road-building in Doklam and, thus, allowing India to justify its intervention. Bhutan does not value Doklam greatly but, since India believes it controls the approach to the strategic Siliguri corridor, continues to rebuff repeated Chinese offers to settle its borders with Bhutan in exchange for Doklam being ceded to China.


  1. For sake of argument, I accept that it has been 'Big win for India that will enhance its status with South Asian neighbours'.
    Do consider two questions. First. Is it more important for India to educate/feed/job its millions uneducated.hungry/jobless or to 'enhance its status with South Asian neighbours'? We don't even have money to pay for Oxygen cylinder in a government hospital for ailing children Second. In any crisis the assessment must include what is a possible alternate history? Not what happened, but what could have happened (or will happen still somewhere else. sometime soon)
    Is it the same India for which romantic poets don't tire of singing 'Zyada ka nahin lalach humko, thode mein guzara hota hai'. The worl famous shantidoot India. How much has she changed! Is now in league with USA and China.

    1. Once richest country in the world became poor because it could not protect itself from invaders and if now we fail to protect our borders there will bw milloins of peopele die due to hunger ......

  2. “China will continue to exercise its sovereignty and uphold its territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions.” In black and white was China's statement yesterday. Adjust yourself to the reality, you continue to spin it here with your strange interpretation.
    China now thinks for the long term, China is determined to build a future road through Ha with agreement with Bhutan and a future road from Yadong to Thimphu.
    We are in the process of negotiating a 10 billion dollar aid\loan to the Bhutan Government, with no more blackmail from India, a future Bhutan will be free to choose its own friends. China will resolve all its border disputes with Bhutan peacefully to Bhutans advantage. It will share its hydro electric expertise it has acquired in projects in Tibet with Bhutan, speaking of which ther will be no future water agreement with India regarding our rivers, China will maintain sovereignty over its own water resources by building dams in its own self interest. It is in India's intrest to maintain friendship with China and participate in the The Belt, if it wants concessions from China.
    The PLA is determined to protect the Chumbi valley from Indian artillery fire. The Donglang area will be fortified and prepared for a rapid deployment of a future PLA force.
    Blame your nationalist RSS and Modi who created this atmosphere of belligerence between these two ancient nations with the worlds largest populations.

  3. China retreats with a bloody nose. Long live the tried and tested friendship between Bhutan and India. Bhutan knows now a friend in need is a friend indeed, and India never will let down Bhutan in need, risking everything for its tiny friend.
    Our Sikhs and Jats on the border displayed true grit, martial soldiers honed with centuries of victories in battle. Nothing can match the Indian army in the art of war. We were let down by Nehru in the 1962 war who restrained our troops.
    China has realised it was at risk of losing entire Tibet, hence the climp down.
    All the world is looking at Indias example here and taking courage from it. India is emerging as the new superpower. It's has come of age after years of Muslim and colonial domination.
    Jai Hind, Jai Modi Sarkar.

  4. credit goes to modi and doval for deft and firm handling. above all the silence they maintained was a stark contrast to Chinese bluster (and blunder).

  5. We needs to.thank Bhutan for the support . Revisit the agreements on power and aid. Increase them.
    Simultaneously begin to improve relations with Nepal.

  6. If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck, looks like a duck.
    "India will withdraw troops, China to continue its sovereignty rights in accordance with the historical border agreement"
    Indian media feeds off a delusional public, and the public feeds off a media which reinforces that delusion.

  7. Good article Shukla, just one query.
    "Regional watchers have speculated whether the disengagement agreement provided for China to establish diplomatic relations with Bhutan, something that India has discouraged under the terms of a treaty between New Delhi and Thimphu. However, well-informed media sources in Thimphu deny any such quid pro quo."
    What is the above treaty which has terms for Bhutan not to establish diplomatic relations with China. I have searched and cannot find it, would be grateful if you point me to the right direction where it can be found.

  8. In any case, this is perhaps the first time when Indian Govt stood up against Chinese unilateral activities in the strategically important locations, at least this would long in containing such aggressive posturing of China along border. Overall credit should be given to political leadership to handle the situation with mature and tactful manner without surrendering to Chinese hostility meekly.

  9. Well i would say that it can be disguise... its always been china's policy like lion's attacking strategy.. take one or two steps behind and position itself well before attacking .

  10. ‪To all you paranoid people
    Once a guard closes a gate, ten thousand enemy soldiers cannot open it‬


    Why keep the gates between two people locked in the first place
    The little road in this dispute leads to nowhere, it is being built for Chinese patrolling vehicles so that Chinese border Guards do not have to walk.
    PAPF are not there for combat and prefer not to walk at this high altitude. You would know, Chinese police live in heated modern accommodation, unlike low paid, Indian soldiers, we sincerely feel for you and your families.
    In comfortable bunk rooms, PAPF like any ordinary human beings, like to downtime by constantly playing video games like honour of kings with distant friends on smart phones, use wei chat to talk to family and watch Chinese TV.
    Chinese border Guards love Indian Cigars, Chinese branded 中南海 cigarettes are exchanged for India cigars.

  11. The way China and more specifically the Chinese Army looks at it, is that it failed to prevent the incursion of Indian troops on to its territory and was held somewhat hostage by India. This will have to be prevented in future, no compromise can be had towards a foreign country telling China what to do, on its own territory. This is not the end,of it. India has become the snake in the grass in Chinese public opinion. China needs to be vigilant towards its neighbour, it does not have a friend in India. Adequate measures need to be taken and China needs to be better prepared

  12. PLA needs to put its thinking cap on.
    It's has failed if it allows these monkeys to occupy again.

  13. Actually the Chinese defecated in their inner wear because their Armed Forces are a great façade! Their aircraft, tanks, missile systems are very average! They've never let anyone peek into their real self! Also China knows that in 1962 they played dirty catching us with our pants down and; while the Indian leadership were in delusion the Armed Forces were down sized, inexperienced and ill-equipped which is not the case today - we have a belligerent leadership - to say the least, a professional and dynamic military leadership, a indomitable military - very professional three Services and a synergised Integrated tri- Service StratForce, which can add colour to their characteristic pallor which will blow the cover off their stated military might exposing them globally! The PLA is a professionaly mediocre, poorly led organisation which lacks the ability to conduct offensive operations! Yes they have an arsenal of SSMs with very abysmally large Circular Error Probability - the looking LONDON hitting TOKYO kinds - which even North Korea has! And of course they ride on the awe of Sun Tzu which they use to talk big concepts like the WZC and Unrestricted Warfare whereas their Armed Forces have in the last fifty years not fought a war nor battled insurgency (as they never let dissent survive beyond the first noise)

    So Chill! Till as long as India has its ARMED FORCES the TRICOLOUR shall flutter high!

  14. To the Chinese anonymous at 18:10 and 19:26, I would only say .. "Dream On!!" Be grateful that India allowed you a dignified retreat which will help you save face.

  15. By standing fast India had refused to budge for more than two months. This was the area where India had China over a barrel , and took full advantage.
    But what has India gained here?
    What has India learned?
    Firstly unlike what the media says - A Chinese attack down the roads via Kalimpong to the Chicken neck given the terrain, is not feasible and hardly unlikely. Why should China battle it out down difficult mountain roads suffering large casualties only to be met by a formidable force in the plains. Although the bowl overlooks the chicken neck in the Assam plains, a very large distance away as the crow flies, given that China can launch cruise missiles from almost anywhere, this is not such an advantage.However if China gives up the bowl to Indian control, China's Chumbi valley has another point at which it is vulnerable.
    So regardless if the Chinese are in occupation or not, or building roads there, India should have not been too worried.
    Then was this just an opportunity for India to flex its muscles, just because it could?
    It looks like it was, but it's unwise to do so to a neighbour who is five times economically stronger.
    China is not, Bangladesh or Nepal, showing China who is boss in an area of advantage, is not going to deter it to change its policy and attitudes for the better, it is more than likely to have the opposite effect.
    India should be confident enough to make gestures of friendship and trust. Why make a point over a piece of worthless land. India has a history of doing so, that is why despite all the suffering, it has not reached a solution on the Saichen Glacier.
    Indian nationalists would be advised to understand, a country does not get stronger with the extent of the area it controls, that was true only during feaudalism when a strong economy was based on agricultural and large lands were needed, to feed large population for large armies.
    Now with vey little land a country can be strong example Singapore or Autonomous Hong Kong. Israel.
    Creating highly educated and motivated people is the area where India should be investing, via high quality education, health care, and a universally high standard of living, the product of these is the road to power, not a few extra km of of land here and there.

  16. @Annonymus - 'Then was this just an opportunity for India to flex its muscles, just because it could?' --- Rightly pointed out. Now Modi will become darling of Indian crowd. Has bought this insurance for another screw-up like Demonetisation. Smart cat.

  17. @Alok Asthana ..... there are too many in line to be benefitted by Modi bashing. You stand no chance however shrill and irrational you may be.


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