Dramatic Resolution of the Doklam Standoff

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On 28 June, 2017, the news that China and India have agreed to end a lengthy stand-off at the in Doklam Plateau that began in June, was reported by media of both the countries but in different forms. The Ministry of External Affairs, India’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar released a statement – titled, “Doklam Disengagement Understanding” saying, “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 of Doklam has been agreed to and is going on,”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed that the sides managed to reach understanding on the issue. “All of India’s servicemen and military equipment, which illegally crossed the border, were withdrawn back behind their border,” Hua said at the press briefing.The spokeswoman noted that China will continue to undertake all necessary measures to ensure its territorial integrity and sovereignty.China, in a statement by its Foreign Ministry said it is “pleased” that India has agreed to withdraw soldiers from the area and asserted that Chinese troops will continue patrolling the plateau. Notwithstanding what China said, but diplomats both sides are patting their back of finding some peaceful resolution, and Chinese were talking through diplomatic channel, despite their published stance of ‘No talks without Indian pull out’, perhaps for their domestic consumption. As regards patroling upto LAC, even under the existing agreements, both sides can patrol their areas, as per their perceptions of LAC, till demarcation of LAC is carried out.

Although there is a contradiction in the manner in which each country has reported it perhaps to amuse their domestic audience, and both sides can claim it to be a diplomatic achievement. It is a welcomed step towards peace and tranquility along the borders, hence which side blinked first or had an upper hand is not relevant, although both will claim it. This resolution has ensured that there has been no exchange of bullets, and India and China as responsible nations have been able to resolve their differences peacefully on Doklam Standoff. It also ensured that both the  countries found a peaceful solution, with a facec-saving gesture to ease tension, without disturbing the core interest of either. As a long term measure both China and India need to expedite demarcation of LAC on ground, and disseminate it up to the level of troops manning the borders to prevent future face-offs, which is avoidable by cooperative political intent followed by intense diplomatic efforts. This action can not be postponed further if the two neighbours have to live peacefully in future without further standoffs’.

 The breakthrough comes just ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China for the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) summit in Xiamen. Although India has so far not confirmed Prime Minister Modi’s attendance but the immediate benefit of this resolution is that there will be a meaningful meeting of BRICS, with positive developmental agendas in first week of September. It also helps President Xi Jinping in concentrating on domestic issues including re-organization of NPC and seeking third term for himself, who is overly engaged with US over North Korea, South China Sea and backing Pakistan.  

The only thing  which needs to be watched is that it is not a temporary event based adjustment, and it translates into some concrete measures to find long lasting solutions to avoid frequent standoffs. Let us also applaud our troops who roughed out facing Chinese in that area, and need to be ready to do it again, if the ‘Chinese adjustment’ turns out to be an event based, temporary exercise.

Gen Asthana

( Views expressed are solely of the author, who can be reached as Shashi asthana on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+)





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