Doklam standoff ends but Chinese reactions try to hide the single reason for which Indian soldiers were forced to confront the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
As soon as Ministry of External Affairs on Monday announced that both India and China have decided to disengage in Doklam, thus ending over two months of standoff between their respective soldiers in the region, reactions from China portrayed the development as if India conceded defeat and pulled back its soldiers.
“On the afternoon of August 28, the Indian side had pulled back all the trespassing personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary and the Chinese personnel on the ground have verified this. China will continue exercising sovereignty and uphold territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying at a press conference by Global Times.
However, Chinese reactions tried to hid the single reason for which Indian soldiers were forced to confront the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – that is Beijing’s attempt to change the status quo in the disputed region which is claimed both by Bhutan and China and is also strategically significant for India.
Ever since the start of the standoff, India’s stand was clear as outlined by Minister of External Affairs Shushma Swaraj in the Parliament. “Their (China’s) intention was to reach the tri-junction so that they can unilaterally end the status of the tri-junction. It was only then that India came into the picture,” she said on July 21, adding, “If China unilaterally changes the tri-junction point, then India’s security is challenged.”
Top Indian leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi had left no doubt in anyone’s mind by saying on several occasions that New Delhi was not interested in any armed conflict, but wanted a peaceful, diplomatic solution. Nuclear powers like China and India cannot even wish for any other way to solve disputes, other than by dialogue. On August 5, PM Modi had expressed this by saying he hoped the two countries would find a solution through dialogue, and they did it eventually.
But sometimes subtle, and sometimes open, threats of war came on multiple occasions from Chinese officials and its state-sponsored propaganda machinery. Consider this from one of the editorials published in China’s Global Times: “Indian border troops are no rival to PLA field forces. If a war spreads, the PLA is perfectly capable of annihilating all Indian troops in the border region.”
Watch Sushma Swaraj speaks on India’s Foreign Policy
A week ahead of BRICS summit in China, ultimately sense prevailed in Chinese establishment. Though Chinese reactions have sought to highlight only the withdrawal of allegedly “trespassing” Indian soldiers from the site of standoff, it is apparent from India’s official statement on Monday that PLA would no more try to build the road, which was the single point of contention.
For the record, Indian soldiers had not trespassed into the territory. Rather, India was assisting Bhutan as it supports the latter both militarily and diplomatically. Doklam is the Bhutanese name of the region which is recognised by India as Doka La. China claims it as a part of its Donglang region.
China and Bhutan are separately engaged in talks over the resolution of the border issue between them. However, Bhutan has no diplomatic ties with China.
“In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests. On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing,” read India’s official statement.
It has also become clear now that war threats from China have fizzled out. This reflected in the toned-down rhetoric of Chinese Defence ministry on Monday. “It is in the joint interests of both countries and their people to maintain peace and stability in the border region,” China’s CGTN reported it as saying.
In the ultimate analysis, Doklam was a war which never took place. However, there is no need of chest-thumping from both sides. India and China have many better things to do together for the prosperity of their respective people. (With agency inputs)