What is the reason behind over 5-weeks long standoff?
Behind this over 5-weeks long standoff lies a geostrategy to control Doklam Plateau. The plateau holds strategic importance for both India and China. It became a bone of contention b/w India and China after 1962 border war, prior to which no one showed interest in the plateau.
China claims Doklam plateau, which is currently disputed b/w Beijing and Thimpu, to gain a strategic edge over India. The road China claims to be building in its “own territory” in Doklam Plateau would give it a strategic advantage against India in a possible military conflict in future. Doklam is critical as it brings China even closer to the Indian border in a vulnerable location towards the direction of the 27-km-long Siliguri Corridor or “chicken’s neck” that links the northeastern state to the rest of India.
For India, Doklam Plateau holds immense importance as Chinese control over Doklam plateau will undo the terrain and tactical advantage that India has in the region. Chinese foray into the Doklam plateau will also impact India economically as the Chumbi Valley, which is close to the plateau, has served as a trade route from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok through Yadong and Gyantse on to Dalai Lama’s court at Lhasa.
What led to this stand-off b/w India and China?
It erupted when India opposed China’s attempt to extend a border road through the Doklam Plateau.
In June this year, India accused China of constructing a road in the disputed territory towards Doklam plateau, an objection that the Royal Bhutanese Army has also raised. India intervened in the crisis supporting Bhutan’s stand and asking China to halt its construction work. China claims Doklam plateau, an 89 sq. km pasture that falls close to Chumbi valley at the corner of India-Bhutan-China tri-junction and is not very far from the Sikkim sector.
Subsequently, Chinese troops asked India to remove two bunkers that were setup in 2012 at Lalten in Doklam Plateau. Later, on the night of June 6, the bunkers were reportedly destroyed by Chinese bulldozers after China stated that neither India nor Bhutan had any claim over the region. This escalated the tension and soon there was a standoff b/w troops of both countries with PLA and Indian Army sending immediate reinforcements to the region.
What is India and China saying on the matter?
India is supporting Bhutan’s claim that it’s their (Bhutan’s) land and alleged that China is trying to alter the status-quo. India also rejected China’s claim that it has trespassed into Beijing’s territory and trying to grab it. At the same time, China has reiterated its sovereignty over the area, saying that the road is in its territory and accused Indian troops of “trespassing”.
China said India would do well to remember its defeat in the 1962 war, warning Delhi that China was also more powerful than it was then. To this, Indian Defence Minister gave a befitting reply that India of 2017 is different from the India of 1962.
China has also claimed that India is violating an 1890 border agreement b/w Britain and China that previous Indian governments have pledged to uphold, and it should be respected to end a “very serious” incursion by India. To this Indian government responded by underlining that the two governments had agreed in 2012 that the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the countries concerned. “Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding,” it said.
As of now, there is no push and shove at the border although tensions are high. Both countries have said they would use official diplomatic channels to find a solution to the dispute.
India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is scheduled to visit Beijing on July 26 to attend the meeting of NSAs from BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He is expected to raise the issue with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.