In the month of June 2017, we saw what was the beginning of a border dispute between the two Asian nuclear giants, India and China.Since then, both the countries have failed to reach an understanding regarding their dispute and are locked in an ‘eyeball-to-eyeball’ standoff. (Indo-China Border Standoff).
WHERE IS THE REGION OF DISPUTE?
The region of conflict is the Doklam plateau region that is not present within the Indian territory. However, that being said it has a history of unease as both the Bhutanese and the Chinese governments lay claim over it.
Bhutan and China have long since had many talks and disputes over the Doklam plateau with a status quo and agreement to maintain peace in the region, being reached in the 1988 and 1998 written agreements.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE FOR THE CONFLICT?
China has been accused of violating the status quo when it began constructing a road in the Doklam plateau region.
The Bhutanese government raised alarm when Chinese troops arrived in the Dolam plateau (part of the Doklam region) with 4-5 bulldozers and earth moving machines as they began working on extending a road towards the Jampheri ridge.In response to the alarm, the Indian troops came down from Doka La and formed a human chain, physically restraining the Chinese from working.
The equipment continues to be on a standby as of now, while both the Indian and Chinese army troops have pitched their tents in the region.
The Chinese have not made any efforts towards resuming the road construction work.
HOW IS DOKLAM PLATEAU IMPORTANT TO INDIA?
The Northeastern states are connected to the mainland India through a Small narrow corridor called Siliguri Corridor also known as The Chicken’s Neck.
This corridor is only between 27 to 60 KM wide and 200 KM in length. It’s also only 80 KMs away from China border.
While Indian insistence on stopping the track construction is in line with its claims on the location of the tri-junction, the main reason for taking a strong stance is the military importance of the Jampheri ridge.
The MEA noted this in its statement when it said that “such construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India”.
While access to the Jampheri ridge will reduce China’s distance to the “chicken’s neck” in the Siliguri Corridor to around 50 km, that would still not bring it within artillery range.
But there are other security implications for the Indian defensive deployment in the area if the Chinese track reaches Jampheri.
The Indian and Bhutanese demand, therefore, is for the restoration of the pre-June 16 situations in the area.
But China insists that India should withdraw its troops from the area before any talks can take place.
IS THERE A CHANCE FOR THE CONFLICT TO FURTHER ESCALATE?
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Chinese president Xi Jinping claimed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has the confidence and capability to defeat all invading enemies as he inspected a massive military parade at the country’s largest military base to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the 2.3-million strong army.
While there was no reference in his speech to over a month-long India-China military standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector, his remarks came in the midst of shrill official media campaign and assertions by the Foreign and Defence Ministries in Beijing accusing Indian troops of “trespassing” into what China claims is part of its territory – a stand that Bhutan and India do not consider valid.
The statement issued by the President has further added tension to the atmosphere between India and China.
Diplomatic engagement can open a way, but a solution that allows both sides to ‘save face’ is not immediately visible.
The Chinese have ratcheted up rhetoric through official statements and in state-run media, and the space for an honorable disengagement appears to be shrinking.
Though undesirable, an escalation of the conflict remains a possibility.
Thus, It is in the best interest for both India and China to solve the dispute by opening to diplomatic talks in order to avoid an all-out war that would cause damage to both the countries.
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