In a recent development, China reasserted its sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Doklam plateau. China justified its massive construction activities as ‘legitimate’ infrastructure development. The move comes after the existing standoff had come to an end through an effective dialogue process between India and China last year.
The 70-day standoff that ended in August 2017 has again strained the relationship between the two Asian heavyweights. The two countries mutually decided to de-escalate the tension over the disputed territory just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China for the BRICS summit.
The standoff began after the Indian army intercepted the road-building efforts by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Doka la area of the Doklam plateau. The Doklam pass is controlled by China, while it is claimed by Bhutan. However, in its own interest and owing to India’s rising concern, Bhutan has hosted the Indian army to prevent Chinese aggression in the area.
The Doklam standoff was the first instance of India facing down Chinese troops on a territory claimed by a third country. India got involved in the situation because development activities in that area posed serious security ramifications and strategic concerns for her.
Geographically, the Doklam plateau lies to the north of the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan. In fact, the plateau lies in the vicinity of the Sikkim corridor which connects India’s northeastern states to rest of the country. The road which China wished to construct would have connected Doklam to Yadong, which has a railway connection. In the case of any irregularity, China could have sent troops and artillery really fast.
China and India have previously agreed that the disputes must be solved diplomatically. In 2013, when the then PM Manmohan Singh visited China, the two states signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, reaffirming that both shall exercise ‘maximum self-restraint’. By the virtue of these agreements, the 70-day deadlock came to an end. However, the Indian army is prepared for any activity by its mischievous neighbour in the future. As the Army chief Bipin Rawat asserted, in case the PLA troops return, we will not hold back.
China, on the other hand, has wanted to aggressively achieve its ambition to further uphold its dominance in this part of the world. On the other hand, Bhutan, which doesn’t even have a Chinese embassy, kept asserting its claims over the territory despite lacking a strong military base. However, with the support of its friendly neighbour, India, which came to its rescue, it was able to maintain the status quo.
Doklam is not the first military standoff between the two countries trying to establish their hegemony in the Asian continent. However, unlike other deadlocks, the solution to the Doklam issue remains uncertain because of China’s imperialistic adventure in a territory over which it claims its jurisdiction.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.