DOKLAM STAND-OFF: India, China agree to ‘disengage’

The External Affairs ministry of Government of India has said that India and China have agreed to an ‘expeditious disengagement’ of border personnel at the Doklam plateau in Bhutan.

In a statement, the external affairs ministry said:

“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 concerns and interest.

“On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going.”

The finer details of the agreement have not been released.

It is not clear whether China will cease the road construction activity at the site — the key reason for India’s movement of troops.

If indeed there are no attached conditions or clauses, the development marks a victory for the Indian side, which had been subjected to daily bombardment of threats from the Chinese side for around one month.

Chinese official media had said that the country will not withdraw its troops from the plateau under any circumstances and that it will continue with the construction of the road.

No mention of the road construction activity has been made in the MEA statement.

“Hopefully Doklam is a new chapter in India-China relations,” said prominent journalist Shekhar Gupta, who has spent years covering India’s relations with its neighbours.

“Too much a stake for both big powers to let legacy real-estate issues linger,” he added.

Doklam or Zhoglam (in Standard Tibetan), known as Donglang in China, is an area with a plateau and a valley, lying between Tibet’s Chumbi Valley to the north, Bhutan’s Ha Valley to the east and India’s Sikkim state to the west.

It has been depicted as part of Bhutan in the Bhutanese maps since 1961, but it is also claimed by China. To date, the dispute has not been resolved despite several rounds of border negotiations between Bhutan and China.

The area is of strategic importance to all three countries.

In June 2017 a military standoff occurred between China and India as China attempted to extend a road on the Doklam plateau southwards near the Doka La pass and Indian troops moved in to prevent the Chinese.

India claimed to have acted on behalf of Bhutan, with which it has a ‘special relationship’. Bhutan has formally objected to China’s road construction in the disputed area.

India is believed to have acted out of worry that China’s construction of a road at the sensitive point would easily expose Indian territory to future military advancement from its northern neighbour. It was also loathe to be seen as not coming to the aid of a country it has promised to protect.

While most Indians were with the government’s policy of not withdrawing its troops or allowing the Chinese to construct the road, there were some in India who rejected the stand and urged a troop withdrawal.

DOKLAM WITHDRAWAL: Who wins, who loses?