Why Doklam Standoff is Not A Chinese Bluff!

Why Doklam Standoff is Not A Chinese Bluff!

5 min

In last 60 years, India and China have constantly had issues related to the Border largely in Depsang Plains, Disputed areas located near Aksai Chin, Trans-Karakoram Tract, Arunachal Pradesh, and currently in Doklam, Bhutan.

What’s happening?

India’s relations with China remain on edge due to the continuing stand-off in the plateau of Doklam where Indian troops along with Bhutanese Army effectively foiled Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) attempts to invade the disputed area.

The plateau, which lies at a junction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and Bhutan, is currently disputed between Beijing and Thimphu. The tri junction is of immense strategic significance to the three countries. India however supports Bhutan’s claim over the area.

Why it’s important for India?

Doklam is critical as it brings China dangerously close to the Indian border in an openly exposed location towards the direction of the 27-km-long Siliguri (aka ‘Chicken’s Neck’) that links the northeastern states to the rest of India.

This is currently the most active and dangerous border dispute between India and China.

May 2017: India declines Chinese invitation and boycotts the One Belt One Road Summit in Beijing and issues a detailed statement listing its objections; citing its long-persisting concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

June 2017: Bhutan, after issuing demarche to China, requested the Indian Army to help in checking Chinese incursion in the area in the name of road construction. Chinese road-construction unit stopped by India at the plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China.

July-August 2017: Both India and China have rushed more troops to the border region, and media reports say the two sides are in an “eyeball to eyeball” stand-off and there has been no direct dialogue of either peace or war.

August 2017: Indian border guards foiled an attempt by Chinese soldiers to enter Indian Territory along the banks of well-known Pangong Lake in Ladakh resulting in stone pelting that caused minor injuries to soldiers on both sides.

China has conveyed continuous warnings, demanding Indian Army to withdraw their forces from Doklam; but India remains firm about maintaining the status-quo and safeguarding Bhutan’s sovereignty and India’s security.

(India is committed to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan as per the Indo-Bhutan agreement of 1949 which was succeeded by the Indo-Bhutan agreement of 2007)

Bhutan, meanwhile, has asked China to stop building the road, saying it is in violation of an agreement between the two countries.

India China Relation

Needless to say, China has broken the principles of Panchsheel on a number of occasions.

“If the first intrusion (Chumar) was happenstance, the second (Demchok) a coincidence, the third time (Doklam) was clearly enemy action.”
– said a Government Official

The Chinese Game plan

China is extremely good at playing games, and not just at Olympics, but also in politics, economics and at borders. The entire intrusion of Chinese forces into the tri junction is a huge game plan well thought of by the Chinese think tanks.

1. China appears to be arranging in the Himalayas an approach it has used in other disputes, that is to say ‘set up a permanent infrastructure in disputed area and then make the claim that there was no dispute to begin with.’ Example: South China Sea.

2. Also, India and China have always been at loggerheads with each other over the demarcation of the LAC. For the past three decades, China has consistently built its border infrastructure aimed at ensuring quick mobilization of troops in the event of a possible conflict with India.

In the event of any such Chinese misadventure, the road being constructed by China in the Doklam plateau would choke the narrow corridor and cut off the supply lines in India’s North-East, especially in Assam, Aruncahal Pradesh and Sikkim. This would also lead to the cutting off of three primary military formations and their units, enormously reducing the supply of equipment and reinforcements to them.

This is not it; such events will also mean that China will gain direct access to Bangladesh and easier access to Myanmar.

3. The Narendra Modi government has shown a very tough and strong stand against the Pakistani mischief in the J&K region. This worries China and puts its excessively ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project in question, which passes through the disputed POK.

Hence, China’s strategy is to subdue India by attacking its weak points, striking where it is unprepared, and preventing its rise to the extent possible. Because for China, it is important to draw India into these standoffs to keep the threat of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) alive and making it two front by also playing the Pakistan card.

This two-front war will also guarantee China’s position as the undisputed leader in Asia substantially reducing the preeminence of the USA.

“India can defend itself from anyone who seeks to act against our country.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in the Independence Day speech.

The conclusion

The current situation demands China should first withdraw its troops from Doklam following which India would start re treating its forces from the stand-off area to preserve the status quo as before June 16, 2017.

India, as always has yet again asserted that peace and tranquility on the border is an imperative precondition for smooth bilateral relationship.

“We will continue to engage with China to find a mutually acceptable solution,”
– MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

Both sides seem resolute to stand their ground, while neither side wants nor expects a Military conflict. Just like previous standoffs, New Delhi and Beijing believe they can peacefully resolve disputes either through their diplomats or through on-ground flag meetings.

Yet, as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s points out, this is not the first contravention by the relentless Chinese in a disputed area; nor would it be the last.

Kaushal Piruka
I write, because I can't dance.