End this logjam

By Prof K Nageshwar | THE HANS INDIA |   Aug 09,2017 , 10:50 PM IST


The protracted standoff between India and China at Doklam which the latter calls as Donglang is threatening peace and stability in the region. As Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament, war is no solution.

Diplomatic sagacity and statesmanship should prevail to find an amicable solution to the latest irritant in Sino-Indian relations that saw remarkable growth in the recent past, especially in trade relations. The prolonged impasse has the potential to derail the gains achieved on the bilateral front over decades.

The unrelenting anti-India tirade in Chinese media further vitiates the climate.  Beijing should immediately contain the hawkish rhetoric even in the State-run media. This should be the first Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to arrive at a mutually acceptable and reasonable agreement to resolve the face-off. China insists unconditional and unilateral withdrawal by India. India cannot accept this and in turn proposes mutual withdrawal. China has rejected India's offer, resulting in stalemate.

China is right when it says that Doklam is a dispute between it and Bhutan. But, Indian strategic concerns over Chinese presence in the Doklam plateau cannot be altogether dismissed. India and Bhutan remind China of the fact that Beijing should not have altered the status quo on the border by moving troops and equipment into the Doklam region which China claims it to be its own territory, citing a 19th century Anglo-Chinese convention while Bhutan was not a party to it. 

Doklam plateau is at the tip of the Chumbi valley that connects Indian state of Sikkim and China. Chinese presence in Doklam will bring it at a striking distance from the strategically critical Siliguri corridor, the region that separates Indian North East with the main land.  India fears that China can easily bully small neighbour like Bhutan to get a tactical advantage in this strategically critical territory. Doklam falls in the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.

Latest reports indicate that China has agreed to move back 100 metres from their present position at Doklam. But, India reportedly suggested that China should pull back its troops to 250 metres for New Delhi to withdraw its troops.  This indicates that both sides are trying for a honourable retreat despite jingoistic outburst at home. 

China feels India is being subsumed into US plans to encircle it. India took a strident anti-China position on South China Sea dispute. Beijing is also wary of India's joint military exercises with US and Japan in the region.

Similarly, India is conscious of growing China-Pakistan nexus detrimental to its interests. India refused to join Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) calling it a Chinese expansionism.

India and China should intensify meaningful dialogue to dispel the increasing apprehensions on each other's strategic interests.  Doklam is a culmination of worsening Sino-Indian relations in the recent past.  Both sides should realise that any confrontation between them will only exacerbate great power rivalry in the region.  Peace, normalcy and stability should be restored through mutual trust.  Doklam cannot be allowed to snowball into a foreign policy quagmire.

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