Village near Doklam evacuated, India thickens border presence - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 10 August 2017

Village near Doklam evacuated, India thickens border presence

Nathan Valley (courtesy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Aug 17

Although the generals are not expecting a Chinese attack on the disputed Doklam bowl, where some 150 Indian soldiers have been in an eyeball-to-eyeball face-off against some 40 Chinese border guards since June, the army is taking no chances.

Villagers in Nathang, a border village 10-12 kilometres as the crow flies from Doklam, have been asked to evacuate their homes and move elsewhere. Nathang is overlooked directly by mountain features at Doklam, like Gyemochen, which China claims as the disputed India-China-Bhutan tri-junction.

Another Indian village nearby, Kuppup, is significantly closer to the border. But it is shielded from the Doklam area by high mountains that Indian troops occupy.

Army spokespersons deny the military has asked for Nathang to be evacuated. The civilian administration, however, is unlikely to have taken such a step unilaterally.

Simultaneously, two Indian mountain divisions –17 Division, headquartered in Gangtok; and 27 Division, based in Kalimpong – are discreetly moving troops to their battle stations on the Sikkim-Tibet border, including areas far removed from Dolkam.

Military sources downplay this move as “precautionary”. Says one senior officer: “We have our annual operational alert in October every year. This year, because of the tension at Doklam, we have advanced it by a couple of months.”

The operational alert allows troops to get acclimatised to high altitudes, renovate the bunkers and trenches from which they would fight, break out ammunition, and carry out the coordination needed to fight an integrated defensive battle.

Even as the army takes these precautions, policymakers in New Delhi are optimistic that diplomacy would resolve the issue without the need for military action.

“This is China’s ‘Kargil moment’, where a crisis has been created by gung-ho military commanders, who appear to have misled the leadership in Beijing that India would quietly accept Chinese road-building in Doklam”, says a former top diplomat with decades of experience in dealing with China.

“Although Beijing knows it has erred, China cannot pull back without losing face. That means the face-off will continue at least until the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), most likely to be held in October. Xi Jinping is not going into that crucial Congress from a position of weakness, given that his leadership for the next five years will be shaped there”, says the former diplomat.

Yet China would face significant military disadvantages in mounting a frontal attack to evict Indian troops from Doklam. This would involve advancing through the narrow Chumbi valley, overlooked by Indian troops deployed on the heights.

“Even an airborne strike, like the spectacular staged for Xi Jinping at Zhurihe on July 31, on the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) 90th anniversary, would find it difficult to dislodge Indian troops at Doklam without using massive air power and escalating the crisis dramatically.

Asked about military options that could provide China with a face-saver, a senior general believes the PLA might choose to occupy another strategic border pass, such as the 17,500 foot Lipulekh on the India-China-Nepal tri-junction.

Lipulekh is controlled by India, but is also claimed by Nepal, providing a striking parallel with the India-China-Bhutan context at play at Doklam.

“China could occupy Lipulekh, and use that as a face-saver for a mutual withdrawal from Doklam. Then, after the 19th Party Congress is concluded, all sides could return to the status quo”, projects the general, speaking off the record.

Army spokespersons state that the situation at Doklam remains unchanged. However, they are not willing to speak about the number of troops confronting each other. Business Standard reported on Aug 4 that 40 Chinese troops are confronting about 120 Indian troops in Doklam. China has about 1,500 troops to the north of Doklam, while India has about 600 troops to the west, backed up by two army brigades further away. 


  1. Time we begin to sensitize our population on chinese goods & begin boycott. Our fascination with chinese mobiles needs to end. Maybe BCCI give back sponsorship to start with.

  2. It is possible that China does not act. However, India has catapulted itself from a peaceful nation to one that is itching for a fight. With millions dying of hunger, joblessness, no proper education, no infrastructure, no money to pay its armed and police forces properly -- this role doesn't suit us. A deft move by Modi - he comes out as more patriotic and nationalist, whichever way the dice rolls.

    1. In that case we should disband our army, give away our lands to ever-hungry China/Pakistan and sit back for "development". Shame that you were an ex-army person, no wonder India has had made so many strategic mistakes with Pak/China. Pretty much the reason for self-hating Indians like you that a dirt poor China could win over India in 1962 w/o giving a fig to poverty. I feel sorry for the people who learn "leadership" and "team-skills" from you, I pity them.

    2. Lol..Shame on you people if in 70 years of your independence you are still crying Amko gareebi mitana ae...Why did you even ask for independent India? You could have let the British do everything for you? Peaceful guys are COWards who hide their cowardice behind peace chants.

  3. @AlokAsthana Defense of the country and investment in people are not either or choices. I guess we could have done much better in both these domains. however, letting China or any other country invade India till we stop hunger, eliminate illiteracy or make sure everyone is educated is not a good idea. I also don't think India made the first move here.

  4. India needs to withdraw and ket peace prevail.The govt cannot afford a two front war.let Hitlers mistakes of fighting Russia without defeating Britian and other examples be the bench mark.

  5. ek aur aaya.. modi ka premi.. iska matlab ye ki 47, 62, 65, 99 sab ke sab aise hi deft move the. hunger aur poverty ka rona rone waalon ne kitne aise logon ke liye charity ki hai.. batayenge.

  6. India is supposed to be a democracy, a very open society!

    India China boundary is a serious issue. 1962 forms a sad part of our post independence history.

    China has been continuously shooting press statements, official foreign ministry statements, press releases, photographs, answering almost every difficult or tricky question and making their stand clear.

    Indian spokes person has spoken only on a couple of occasions and then too very opequely.

    Smt Sushma Swaraj statement too does not throw much light on the merits of the controversy or our stand.

    Is india agreeable to the description of Sikkim china boundary as per the 1890 Calcutta convention? Are we bound by it in international law? If not bound, on what basis? If bound by it, how do we disagree with the starting point of the boundary at mount gypmochin which has a slightly different name now? Can ridge and it's definition according to us counter the name of the peak and move it some kilometres northwards to a totally different area?

    According to us Bhutan told china to stop construction and they didn't stop. So our troops present in the area saw that or something and went to meet up Chinese troops and stopped the construction with the help of two bull dozers from India!

    Did the local Bhutan troops or Bhutan government officially or orally invite us to cross into Bhutan from India Bhutan border and go with them to Chinese trooos to stop them from construction.

    China is taking objection to India crossing Sikkim china boundary line and approaching Chinese troops involved in road construction. China also says no Bhutan troops are involved and India did not go into Bhutan and come to stop their troops from Bhutan side. It directly approached them from Sikkim boundary which amounts crossing of Sikkim china boundary into china!

    Is it true that we did cross like that? Or did we go into Bhutan and from Bhutan go to Chinese troops in disputed territory?

    Is the area simply a disputed territory but under Chinese control?

    Who were regularly present in the road construction area? Bhutan or china?

    Why Bhutan troops are not part of the stand off party of Indian troops?

    China claims to have informed on two occasions to Indian authorities about beginning of road construction which is continuation of an existing road, upto Bhutanese army post!

    If china were already in control of this disputed area, it is for Bhutan to take up the matter with china.

    Most Indian press and tv anchors have been saying India has a duty to protect Bhutan , has treaty obligation to do so , Bhutan is an Indian protectorate etc!

    But the India Bhutan treaty makes no such provision or obligation on India.

    Bhutan is not a protectorate!

    Bhutan is also not bound to take any advice or consultation from india about border or it's foreign affairs as per the treaty.

    Then how are we justifying our stand off in facing china troops on land disputed between Bhutan and china which appears to be presently under Chinese occupation. ?

    Is Bhutan by its demarche only protest construction in the disputed territory or is it alleging china has entered territory of Bhutan which is under control of Bhutan but also disputed by china?

    China claims whole of Arunachal Pradesh.

    If we push the logic of status quo, what could our stand be if Chinese troops enter all boundary disputed areas to stop our construction of many roads underway?

    They may not do it.

    By keeping this subject alive, is china succeeding to show everyone in the world that we are claiming privileges not allowed under international law, giving our own interpretation to a 1890 boundary convention disregarding express words about a specific mountain peak - the gypmochin?

    None of our experts including you respected ex army officer and analyst, none of our ex ambassadors, none of our present officials are answering any of these questions.

  7. If some or all of the Chinese claims are true, how could we defend our stand off?
    The precise location of Chinese troops, Indian troops, Bhutanese troops is open to establishment and confirmation of their Pin point location.

    The location of mount gypmochin will be clear to everyone.

    So by keeping the stand off alive, could china discredit india in the eyes of the international opinion.

    That may weaken our overall boundary stance and position.

    To my simple mind it is impossible there will ever be a long term India china war where china, even if capable , will occupy the chicken neck area and sever our connection to north east.

    We claim the Aksai chin under their possession.

    They claim the Arunachal Pradesh including Tawang monastery area.

    After 1962 war, they went back voluntarily giving up gains of war! And we have had a more or less totally peaceful actual line of control . Our prime minister as much acknowledged that a shot has not been fired for 40 years!

    Aksai chin area is of no use to india but indispensable for china to connect Tibet.

    Except Tawang monastery that is part of Tibetan tradition, china has stated clearly it has no interest in Arunachal Pradesh.

    It also said we can either settle all the boundary as per mutual agreement or leave it open for future .

    How is this stance damaging to India?

    OROB in parts of POK IS A NON ISSUE!

    Because china put in a clause with Pakistan that whenever the sovereignty issue over that area is settled between India Pakistan and Kashmir people, china will renegotiate all issues with whoever comes to hold that territory as per any settlement between them.

    So if and when that area comes under india, we can ask Chinese to leave if we don't like them!

    In this over all situation what is the need for this show down by Indian troops in an area that is not admittedly INDIAN?!

    Are we not courting the danger of pushing Bhutan more into Chinese hands by forcibly taking charge of Bhutan interests of territory without their specific invitation?

    The almost forty thousand crore rupees we pay to Bhutan every year now to keep it pretend to love us is very expensive!

    Do we need such expensive bought love?

    Bhutan has diplomatic relations with about twenty plus sundry countries!

    It has no diplomatic relations with china, its largest boundary Nieghbour!

    How do we justify this situation?

    Is Bhutan opposing diplomatic relations with china?

    Can the world believe that?

    Or will the world and Bhutanese people believe Chinese allegations that India is unlawfully controlling Bhutan and preventing Bhutan by carrot and stick threats to keep china at bay even for normal diplomatic relations?

    India and we Indians must grow up.

    We must be willing to face our friends and foes and talk to them.

    We must be honourable and upright and discuss and debate all our concerns and sort them out through dialogue.

    There is no other way!

    There can be no other way.

    Childish tricks do not work in international relationships and boundary issues.

    Let's face china and place all our issues on the table and seek resolution!

    Rather let us demand resolution!

    We should be able to get resolution sooner or later based on international law, conventions and mutually acceptable and beneficial adjustments.


  8. Alok: So what does intellects like you suggest India should do?
    Accept Chinese hegemony with folded hands?

  9. I am against India becoming a predatory aggressive power, like the US. And yes, I would prefer the PM to take some time (and money) out for the the crores of poor and powerless of the country before embarking on such silly ventures. National institutions are being shot up and the nation is only looking at imaginary external threats to it. Have we gone blind? And btw, the question is not how should India respond to Chinese aggression but how should China respond to Indian soldiers barring its path in territory which is not Indian.

  10. Why does not ashthana saab participate in next general elections so that he may amend policies according to his whims and fancies, till then he has to see modi's reign.


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