Beijing likely to stop building road that triggered standoff; agreement paves way for Modi’s visit to China for Brics.
New Delhi: In a major diplomatic breakthrough and a clear victory, India has managed to tame the Chinese dragon ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to China for the Brics summit early next month, with New Delhi on Monday evening confirming pullout by both Indian and Chinese troops from Doklam in Bhutanese territory, bringing an end to the two month-old Sino-Indian military standoff there.
In what is a vindication of the Modi government’s resolve to draw red lines for China despite tremendous pressure from Beijing over the past nine weeks, India said there was “ongoing expeditious disengagement of border personnel of India and China at the face-off site at Doklam” which “has since been almost completed under verification”. New Delhi said this followed “diplomatic communications” between the two nations, following which an agreement was hammered out. Speculation is also rife that an informal understanding may have been reached wherein China will not construct the road which had triggered the standoff in the first place in view of the “serious security implications for India”. There were some reports that the Chinese may have pulled back their bulldozers and earth-moving equipment as well.
According to PTI reports from Beijing, China was also silent on its plans to build a road and said it would “make adjustments” with the situation on the ground. However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying sought to highlight the withdrawal of Indian troops to dispel the impression of a climbdown by Beijing, saying the “Chinese side will continue to exercise its sovereignty, uphold territorial integrity in accordance with the historical conventions”. China regards Doklam as its territory and calls it Dong Lang.
With India refusing to back down despite daily Chinese threats while at the same time refusing to be drawn into a war of words, New Delhi’s patience seems to have borne fruit. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier suggested in Parliament that the two armies should withdraw for an amicable solution.
China had scoffed at the suggestion, but was left with no option but to follow it. New Delhi has managed to make it clear to the Chinese that “agreements and understandings reached on the boundary issues must be scrupulously respected”.
The Chinese side also appears to have realised the futility of the military option because India is no military pushover and also because of the disastrous impact it would have had on the Chinese economy. India is also a big market for Chinese investment and products. By its resolve, New Delhi has also conveyed to Beijing, the rest of Asia including Bhutan and the whole world that India still has the power to restrain an aggressive China. But it remains to be seen how long the truce holds up, with a smarting Chinese PLA likely to test India again at some point soon.
Sources told this newspaper that moves towards a resolution of the standoff picked up during national security adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to China in the last week of July, with foreign secretary S. Jaishankar too trying to work out a solution. China, expected to make major announcements at the Brics summit in the first week of September, was impressed upon at various diplomatic levels that a summit without Indian PM Narendra Modi’s presence would lose much of its lustre. Decks have now been cleared for Mr Modi’s visit to Xiamen for the Brics summit from September 3 to 5.
In an updated statement on Monday evening, the external affairs ministry said: “We had announced that following diplomatic communications, expeditious disengagement of border personnel of India and China at the face-off site at Doklam was ongoing. This process has since been almost completed under verification.” The MEA added: “India has always maintained that it is only through diplomatic channels that differences on such matters can be addressed. Our principled position is that agreements and understandings reached on boundary issues must be scrupulously respected. India’s policy remains guided by the belief that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an essential prerequisite for further development of our bilateral relationship... We look forward to continuing engagement with the Chinese side.”
In a statement earlier on Monday, the MEA said: “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communications 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 at Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing.”
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying: “On the afternoon on August 28th, India has pulled back all the trespassing personnel, equipment to the Indian side of the boundary.” She added: “Chinese personnel on the ground have verified this. The Chinese side will continue to exercise its sovereignty, uphold territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions.” Stating that the Chinese side continues to patrol the Doklam area, she, however, said: “I can tell you that China will make adjustments with the situation on the ground.”