India appears in no mood to cave in under China’s bullying tactics
India-China stand-off at Doklam, an area that lies at the corner of India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, continues. Beginning from the first week of June over denial of road construction by Chinese troops through the Doklam plateau, it is the first border face-off which has over-last all previous records of stand-off between the two countries since the 1962 war. More than a month has passed and it does not appear that India-China stand-off would dissipate soon. That means Indian troops positioned in Doklam in non-combative mode, would not surrender to China’s bully even as day in and day out, Chinese dailies, including English tabloid Global Times, have warned India of consequences. They warn India of taking lessons from its humiliating defeat in 1962. Chinese ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui pressed on New Delhi to unconditionally pull back troops for peace to prevail. Then in order to put psychological pressure on India, Chinese troops have begun war game exercise in Tibet, while Chinese media led by its provocative news outlet Global Times has warned Chinese businessmen and Chinese people from engaging with India. Adding to on-going tension, there is possibility China’s foreign ministry may issue travel advisory to its citizens on their India visit. But India like rock has stayed the course. The country’s determination to meet Dragon’s challenges can be seen in Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s visit to Sikkim to oversee Indian soldiers’ preparation. In recent days, more troops have been rushed to the border region. While Arun Jaitley, who is heading the Ministry of Defence along with the Ministry of Finance, has made it clear that India of 2017 is different from India of 1962. That categorically indicates, New Delhi will not budge from its stand on Doklam.
Why India is opposed to road construction?
Doklam, which actually falls in Bhutan’s territory, is strategic placed from where Chicken Neck, connecting mainland India from its Northeast states, is hardly 20-km away. If India gives in to pressure from China, which claims the area being settled one in accordance with the 1890 agreement between Britain and China, New Delhi may one day see Chinese troops entering in Indian territory and cutting off Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura from the rest of the country. Previously on two occasions in the eastern sector Chinese troops tried to provoke and impose wars on Indian troops. But each time they tried to do so, they got bloody nose. Indian soldiers badly mauled Chinese army personnel by killing more than 300 troops when stand-off took place near Cho La in the Sikkim sector in 1967. Similarly in 1986, Chinese troops entered Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh and constructed roads and other permanent infrastructure, including a helipad there. When India protested, China simply denied that its troops entered the area. In 1987, Indian army led by K Sunderji took an aggressive stand along entire eastern front; he got airlifted an entire brigade of Indian army to Zimithang, the closest helipad to Sumdorong Chu Valley and forced Chinese troops to move out of the area. Therefore, Indian army has no history of buckling under threat. On the other hand, in order to put India under pressure, China has developed a habit of blurring the fact. It keeps on repeating that the 1890 is a settled agreement and that by obstructing Chinese army from constructing a road near Doklam plateau, India has violated the Britain-China agreement. But Bhutan has made it clear that Doklam falls under its territory and that it never ceded any part of its territory to any country under any agreement. The tiny Himalayan country whose security is India’s responsibility under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty also made it clear that “construction of road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 treaties signed between Thimpu and Beijing.”
Is China’s assertion portentous for Bhutan also?
Yes, China’s assertion on Doklam plateau is dangerous for Bhutan’s territorial interest. Bhutan has no military strength to stand up to Chinese troops. In that view, as per some analysts, China would try to put pressure on Bhutan to concede to its demand on the tri junction. There is possibility that through its stand on Doklam, China may pressure Bhutan for diplomatic engagement, which Thimpu has so far avoided. Analysts say once China establishes diplomatic mission in Bhutan, there are chances the tiny Himalayan nation will be won over by Beijing to the detriment of India’s national interest.
India should also try diplomatic avenues to diffuse the situation around Sikkim. However, it should do so without withdrawing its troops from Doklam plateau. World is keenly watching the situation. Therefore, it would be in the fitness of India’s image that it should give China no opportunity to have an upper hand against it.