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Doklam faceoff ends: A new benchmark for the India-China bilateral?
Posted:Aug 28, 2017
 
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By C Uday Bhaskar
 
The statement of the Indian foreign ministry  on Monday (August 28)  indicating that  Delhi and Beijing have agreed to  “expeditious disengagement” of their border personnel  at the  Doklam  face-off in Bhutan is both significant and  welcome.
 
It will no doubt be interpreted as an emphatic victory  in the public domain by both sides but the sub-text is instructive and will have certain long-term implications for the uneasy India-China bi-lateral and for the extended major power relationship as it is evolving  in the  post 2017  global context.
 
It is understood that the disengagement protocol has been agreed to in a mutual manner by the two militaries (India and China )  with Bhutan also being in the loop - given  Doklam’s current territorial status.  The plateau  is deemed ‘disputed’ and  claimed by both China and Bhutan.  Delhi  is also a stakeholder as the tri-junction between  India , Bhutan and China  is proximate to the Doklam region.
 
A few hours after the Indian statement, the  Chinese foreign office stated  that  Indian troops had withdrawn from  Doklam  - and that  the PLA  would continue to patrol this region. The spokesperson in Beijing further added : “China will continue to exercise sovereignty rights to protect territorial sovereignty in accordance with the rules of the historical boundary.”
 
This is a return to the status  quo that existed prior to June 16 – and it may be recalled that Bhutan’s initial objection was to the manner in which China was building a road towards the Doklam plateau that had triggered the face-off.
 
The timing of this modus vivendi that has allowed both sides to claim a satisfactory outcome can be linked to the forthcoming BRICS summit to be hosted by China. President Xi Jinping would have had a fractured  summit if the Indian Prime Minister had chosen not to attend – and hence the urgency to resolve Doklam.
 
The Modi team exuded commendable restraint and firmness in dealing with Doklam  – from the  time it came into the public domain in mid June, and this was in contrast to the rather shrill turn of phrase and sentiment expressed by Beijing that sought to intimidate Delhi.
 
The Doklam resolution  will represent  a new benchmark for the India-China relationship and will also be closely studied by the extended Asian neighbourhood - as also the major powers  – to appropriately comprehend  the sub-text of how  Delhi was able to satisfactorily deal with an unacceptable degree of assertiveness that Beijing was seeking to exude.
 
The Asian century  may still be salvaged !
 
(C Uday Bhaskar can be contacted at cudaybhaksar@spsindia.in)
 
 
 
 
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