DOKLAM WITHDRAWAL: Who wins, who loses?

The Doklam withdrawal has been accompanied by a tremendous amount of spin, with both countries trying to portray the development in a favorable light.

But what neither side is saying is what happens to the road that China was building — will it continue to build it, or will it abandon it?


The Indian version of events basically say that both countries have decided to withdraw their troops.

This presumably means that the ‘stationed’ troops — numbering about 700 — will be withdrawn.


The Chinese version of the development says that India has withdrawn the troops, and that China will conduct patrols in the area.

What this means is that the Chinese army will now and then enter the area and leave. But there will be no ‘stationed presence’.

According to reports, the Chinese army has been entering the area for patrolling in recent years, even though Bhutan has objected. It is not clear whether the agreement between the two countries gives China the ‘right to patrol’ or whether this was a statement of fact by the Chinese foreign ministry.


Neither governments have addressed the core issue at stake — the road that the People’s Liberation Army was building on the plateau.

It was the construction of the road that irked India and forced it to send troops to put an end to the effort.

Both governments seem to have decided not to reveal the true status of the road development activity.

There is no information about the road construction activity from the press conference being conducted by the Chinese foreign ministry.

The Indian External Affairs ministry has not conducted any press conference yet, and it is not clear whether it will do so at all.

This could mean two things: That China has agreed to halt construction of the road, and India has agreed not to highlight this, or claim a victory.

Or, this could mean that India has agreed to let the Chinese construct the road, and in turn, China has agreed that it will not reveal this fact to anyone, or claim victory.

For now, it is not clear which is the fact. It is likely that the truth will be revealed unofficially by the winning side.

“No more talk of Chinese road building on Doklam plateau, point of India-China standoff,” said Minhaz Merchant, the author of ‘The New Clash of Civilizations’. Merchant sees the absence of any mention of the road as indicative of the fact that India’s neighbour to the north has abandoned the project.

Sreemoy Talukdar, editor at Firstpost, too tended to favor that view.

“As of now, information available so far indicates 1) Indian troops will withdraw 2) China will “continue to patrol” (which means nothing),” he tweeted.

“There is no information on whether China will resume road-building. Rest assured, if China was going to, it would have advertised (it),” he said.

Rohan Venkat, editor at, takes a more nuanced stand. “China has its face-saver (Indians withdraw, sovereignty)… what is New Delhi’s if it can’t talk about the road?

“Seems likely that status quo ante has been restored (no road-building) but why isn’t India saying so when China’s spin already out there,” he asked.