INDIA-CHINA FACE-OFF IN DOKA- LA
This is a guest blog by Sachin. Since 16 Jun 2017 tension between China and India has escalated in the Doka La region in Sikkim- Bhutan. Each party is pointing fingers at each other on the issue of crossing the borders and entering into their mainland. The comments given by both the countries at the bureaucratic and military level have been bold and contradictory. The issue arose when the Indian Military stopped the road construction process of China in Doklam Plateau of Bhutan, which China claims as their own based on the 1890 Sino-British Treaty. Let us see some previous incidents of face-off between India and China.
Past Tensions Since 1962
In late 1967, two skirmishes took place between China & India. One was called the ‘Nathu- La incident’ and the other one was called ‘Chola incident’. There were many casualties on both the sides in both the incidents. In 1987, when India granted statehood to Arunachal Pradesh, tension had escalated on the border and both the countries had deployed additional troops and a war like situation had been created. In 2013, ‘Daulat Beg Oldi Incident’ took place where the Indian and Chinese troops faced off each other for more than 3 weeks on the LAC and the Indian troops had to destroy military structures along 250 Km near Chumar.
Existing Political Understanding
The delineation of the border in the region, like several other regions between China and India have not been agreed upon or resolved. The primary reason for this is the deliberate strategy of China to not resolve the issue. Hence despite a long series of talks the status has not changed. Both countries have, however, agreed to respect the status-quo and resolve the border issue through talks.
Stand-off Since 16 Jun
Since China has not stated clearly as to why it has created this stand-off we can only conjecture the reasons. The probable reasons are one or a combination of the following:
- India and Bhutan were not part of the OBOR initiative and China did not like being snubbed.
- China perceives India as a rival power, which unlike other countries, has not accepted Chinese hegemony. Bhutan’s foreign policy and defence is de-facto India’s responsibility. China wants to bully India & Bhutan to accept China’s hegemony.
- In case of a war, construction of the road will provide strategic advantage to China in mobilizing forces to cut-off India’s Silliguri Corridor & enhances security of China’s Chumbi Valley.
- China would like to pressurize India to accept its control of the South China Sea.
- China wanted to embarrass India at the time PM Modi was meeting US President.
- The statements of Chinese leaders during the recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang and the current stand-off have been more aggressive than the past, indicating greater diplomatic pressure on India.
- India should call China’s bluff and not back down at all. Apparently this is what India is doing.
- India should insist on talks on mutually acceptable terms & not get bullied by ultimatums of terminating visit of pilgrims to Mansarovar and other such efforts.
- It is highly unlikely that China will go to war on the issue when it is trying to revive its economy and become the de-facto second super-power of the world. It cannot afford to fritter her economic and military resources on such a trivial issue, which will definitely make her lose international good-will.
- India is a great trade partner and export destination which China can ill afford to lose.