Senior defence personnel, diplomats, and journalists deliberated on Indo-China standoffs such as Doklam, Chumar and Demchok and the emerging patterns, on September 14 at India International Center in New Delhi.
The conversation, “Doklam Revisited”, featured the Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi who handled the Doklam incident last year, the Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. DS Hooda, the Ambassador of India to China during the earlier Chumar and Demchok standoffs, a former Indian Ambassador to Bhutan and Sushant Singh, the deputy editor of the Indian Express, as moderator.
Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:
First of all, when Doklam is in Bhutan why was India involved? Because strategically Bhutan is important for India’s security, and Bhutan does not want to become another Tibet. Doklam is a disputed tri-junction boundary point between between India, Bhutan and China.
The border at Doklam with China is still disputed, and is called Line of Actual Control (LAC). We have disputes with China in many places.
The stand-off wasn’t an isolated incident but part of a larger pattern, including what is happening in the South China Sea.
It was unlikely to break into an all out war. It isn’t the correct place to start a war with Bhutan sandwiched in-between; how would it look to the international community for China.
It was clear that even though Doklam standoff was not going to turn into a full-fledged war, it would be a long serious haul. The standoff lasted for over two months and there were many rounds of diplomacy between India and China, which continue till date.
India needs to find other pressure points to keep China at check. (If they attack us at our weak point here, we will attack you at your weak point there.)
General Bakshi said that it is for the audience to decide whether or not the defense forces handle the situation well.
We need to make sure that old commitments made with Bhutan are followed through, and that we ensure there are good relations between the two countries, not only officially, but also in various other aspects such as education and infrastructure. According to VP Haran, a former Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, many knots with Bhutan need to be untied.