China may not give up construction of road in Doklam

Cheryl Sanders
August 30, 2017

India should learn its lesson from the Doklam standoff and prevent similar incidents in the future, China said on Wednesday, barely two days after border troops from the two countries disengaged after a 70-day military impasse along the global boundary near Sikkim.

Weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomatic effort succeeded in defusing what once appeared to be a high-stakes and intractable crisis.

Indian External Affairs Ministry broke the news on the development on Monday morning, which was shortly followed by the Chinese Foreign Office confirming the disengagement. "We have consistently maintained that the standoff should end". The trespassing personnel and equipment from India were all withdrawn to the Indian side of the border around 2.30 pm (12 pm IST) the day before yesterday.

Though there is usual chest thumping by a section of Indian media and some strategic experts about the success of India's power projection in Doklam, there is very little introspection over the futility of this long standoff, which was threatening to lead to a full-scale war between two nuclear powers anytime.

What was left unaddressed in both sets of statements was the question that sparked the standoff.

"We hope the Indian side will learn lessons from this incident and prevent similar things from happening again", foreign minister Wang Yi told a press briefing on Wednesday. They crossed over to prevent the extension of an existing road by the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

He is learned to have argued that China's claim over Doklam was not settled, and both sides should simultaneously pull back their troops to restore status quo.

The aim of India's troop moving to Doklam was to reclaim the jurisdictional control of the disputed territory for Bhutan by not allowing China to construct its road project. Sibal maintained that China's neighbours in South-East Asia, who had territorial disputes with Beijing, would be watching the Doklam developments closely.

The Doklam area is also claimed by India's ally Bhutan. The statement from the Chinese offered Beijing a face-saving way out of the impasse.

"The attempt is to paint India as the aggressor", said Sriparna Pathak, an assistant professor in worldwide relations at Assam Don Bosco University in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. There were also demands from within India that the country should not poke its nose into the issue but rulers in New Delhi were not ready to listen to the voices of reason. India and China can not afford an armed conflict as it would have grave implications for either side irrespective of who wins finally. He meant to ask the Indian officer whether India had the locus standi in Doklam.

The upcoming BRICS Summit is scheduled to get open on September 2, in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province.

What comes after the Doklam saga will matter greatly for the relationship between China and India. "For obvious reasons, this means the situation remains fluid until an actual border agreement is arrived at".

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