Doklam standoff — who blinks first?

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Sultan M Hali

IT is nearly two months since June 16, when about 270 Indian troops advanced more than 100 meters into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road being built by China on its side of territory. China reacted strongly to the Indian intrusion and warned the Indians to withdraw immediately or face a war. Over two hundred and thirty Indian troops withdrew but still about forty Indian soldiers remain in Chinese territory. A sizable Indian force remains entrenched on its own side, poised to strike at Chinese forces.IT is nearly two months since June 16, when about 270 Indian troops advanced more than 100 meters into the Chinese territory to obstruct the road being built by China on its side of territory. China reacted strongly to the Indian intrusion and warned the Indians to withdraw immediately or face a war. Over two hundred and thirty Indian troops withdrew but still about forty Indian soldiers remain in Chinese territory. A sizable Indian force remains entrenched on its own side, poised to strike at Chinese forces. So far China has expressed restraint but its Foreign Office spokesperson Geng Shuang, in a statement, said the action of the Indian side amounts to that of “irresponsibility and recklessness.”  He added that no matter how many Indian border troops illegally trespassed the boundary and still stay in the Chinese territory, it will not alter the nature of severely violating China’s territorial integrity and contravening the UN Charter. This incident is illegal under the international law. The Indian side should bear corresponding responsibilities. Chinese Foreign Ministry had issued a 15-page fact sheet with maps and other details about the standoff since it began on June 16, saying 40 Indian troops stayed at Doklam till July end. India has responded with a flimsy plea that the area belongs to Bhutan. It is for the Kingdom of Bhutan, which is a sovereign country to speak to the Chinese if it has reservations to the development projects being undertaken. India, which annexed Sikkim in 1975, browbeats its other Himalayan neighbours Nepal and Bhutan, interfering in their internal matters. In 1962 also India had attempted similar adventurism but had been badly thrashed by the Chinese Army. Not having forgotten that mauling and being egged on by the US, which perceives China as a rival, India feels confident to take on China. Steeped in jingoism, its belligerent Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, ignoring the Chinese ultimatum to withdraw the intruding Indian forces claimed that this was not 1962 and India could retaliate with force. Ultimately India blinked first and withdrew the bulk of its forces but aware of its media glare, has retained forty soldiers and a tractor in the Chinese territory. India’s position on the issue was made clear by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently, saying both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, favouring a peaceful resolution of the border standoff. Rejecting India’s suggestion for a simultaneous withdrawal of troops to end the standoff at Doklam, China has upped the ante, wondering what New Delhi would do if it “enters” Kalapani region in Uttarakhand or Kashmir. “Even if there is only one Indian soldier, even for a day it is still a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” claimed Wang Wenli, Deputy Director General of the Boundary and Ocean Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms Wang was briefing an Indian media delegation, whose visit was sponsored by the state-run All China Journalists Association (ACJA), on China’s stand on the Doklam standoff. “It is impossible to have a dialogue with India at this time. Until the Indian side withdraws from the Chinese territory, there will be no substantive talks between us,” she said, while reiterating Beijing’s stand that the only way to end the present crisis on the border was the withdrawal of Indian troops from Doklam. Ms Wang raised the Kashmir issue and also referred to the Kalapani dispute between India and Nepal. “We think it is not doable for the Indian side to use tri-junction as an excuse,” she alleged, referring to Indian External Affairs Ministry’s assertion that the road building at the China, India and Bhutan tri-junction in the strategic narrow Chicken’s Neck area changes the status quo. This is the first time that a Chinese official sought to bring in the Kashmir issue even though such a remark has been made earlier by a scholar in the state-run “Global Times”. Asked whether China was getting ready for a war with India, Ms Wang said, “I can only say that for the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and for the Chinese government, we have the determination. So, if the Indian side decides to go down the wrong path or still have illusions about this incident, then we have the right to use any act that is in line with the international law to protect our rights.” Ms Wang said India and China had many standoffs before but “we haven’t issued any position paper till now”.  India illegally occupied Kashmir in 1947 and continues to harass the Muslims of the state, ignoring the UN Resolutions to hold a plebiscite enabling the Kashmiris to decide their own fate. For over seventy years Kashmiris have borne the Indian tyranny while the world remained oblivious to their sufferings. Now unwittingly, India has intruded into Chinese territory at Doklam and has provided the Chinese the perfect excuse to enter Kashmir. Relentless Indian obduracy may result in the liberation of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and China will become its knight in shining armour rescuing it from illegal Indian occupation. Narendra Modi, who claims he has a 56 inches chest and can weather many storms, will be remembered in history, as the narcissist Prime Minister, who led India into another debacle, resulting in the loss of IOK. India can continue to ignore Chinese warnings at its own peril.—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host. Email: sm_hali@yahoo.com