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Territorial conflict zone between China and India

Doklam standoff: Confrontation to compromise in 70 days, Aug 29, 2017: The Times of India

In a diplomatic victory, India and China have agreed to "expeditiously disengage" from the stand-off in Doklam on Bhutanese territory after 72 days, with China agreeing to New Delhi's insistence on simultaneous withdrawal for a resolution. Here is how the Doklam standoff unfolded:


China's road building in Doklam, Bhutan, violated pact between India and China. It posed threat to India's strategic interests.


1. "Mutual disengagement of troops" to restore status quo

2. Indian troops withdraw to post at Doka La. They continue to occupy vantage point on top of ridge and can keep an eye on the Doklam bowl, less than 500 metres away

3. China will not renew road building that led to the confrontation. MEA says both sides had moved out "under verification"


Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said India had "pulled back all the trespassing personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary. Chinese troops continue to exercise sovereignty and territorial integrity."

She also said, "China will make adjustments with the situation on the ground" and "will continue to develop friendly relations with India."


1. Despite its war talk, China was disadvantaged on lower ground. It would have found ground harder to hold once it began to snow in September-end.

2. Though China's infrastructure is better, India has closed the gap with its troops closer to the border.

3. Armed conflict could have resulted in high casualties without clear winners.

4. Chinese leadership was keen to resolve row ahead of crucial party conference later this year, where Xi Jinping is expected to get another 5 years as China's leader.

5. China was keen on a smooth BRICS summit and India was also keen to iron out glitches before PM Modi visits Beijing early next month.

6. The wording of the Chinese statement appears to be a bid to placate hawks within China, who were insistent that nothing short of an Indian withdrawal would be acceptable to Beijing.

August 2017: Resolving the crisis

How India achieved the breakthrough

Manjeet Singh Negi and posted by Nikhil Agarwal, Inside story of how India achieved breakthrough in Doklam border standoff with China, August 28, 2017: The Times of India

Intensive parleys continued between NSAs of India, China quietly away from the public glare over telephone lines along with diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.


1. The withdrawal of troops comes days before the BRICS Summit

2. NSA Ajit Doval played a key role in resolving the crisis

3. India and China have been locked in a standoff since June 16

A crisis of unprecedented scale, the Doklam standoff which ran for about two-and-a-half months, ended on time before it could embarrass the leadership of both India and China at the BRICS summit which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend. The 9th annual BRICS summit will take place in China's Xiamen on September 3-5.

According to top government sources, the discussion on the breakthrough started when the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, in Beijing during the BRICS meeting in July 27-28.

The parleys continued between the two NSAs quietly away from the public glare over telephone lines along with diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Modi had decided that NSA Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi would talk to defuse the tension. The NSA and his equivalent met and had a long meet in Hamburg.

Further movement happened during the Beijing meeting. Foreign Secretary Jaishankar and Indian Ambassador to Beijing Vijay Gokhale took the issue forward. Today Modi who had pushed the be diplomatic but stand firm line received a final briefing before the withdrawal order from Doval.

Withdrawal began after flag meeting between 2 colonels of Indian and Chinese army. Flag meeting will be held in few days to decide on withdrawing from other positions India and China are occupying, according to sources.

After Doklam, Yatung and Phari Dzong are to be cleared after further discussion.

Now the Chinese have agreed to not build the road further in the Doklam area and withdraw its troops from there. Troops of India and China were locked in a bitter standoff in Dokalam since June 16 after Indian troops stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the disputed area. It also appears that the Indian side also made PM Modi's visit to the BRICS summit conditional as India wanted to resolve the issue. Indian Army's tough stand in the standoff also helped in putting pressure on China which was made to understand that India will not back off so easily without its demands being accepted.

The Chinese have now agreed to completely withdraw their troops from the area.

This is being termed as major victory of Modi's national security team including both civilian and military diplomacy. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently said both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, and favoured a peaceful resolution of the border standoff.

Relations between the two nations had dipped to a new low over the standoff at Doklam, with the Chinese side refusing to withdraw. Beijing had accused India of transgressing into its territory and demanded immediate withdrawal of Indian troops. The Chinese side, especially the state media, since then had been on an offensive, and on occasions issued veiled threats of war.

India has maintained that both sides should withdraw simultaneously for any dialogue on the issue, and asserted that war was not a solution.

How the deal was arrived at

Diwakar, Aggression to agreement: The inside story of the Doklam deal, Aug 30, 2017: The Times of India


China’s state councillor Yang Jiechi asked NSA Doval, “Is it your territory?”

“Does every disputed territory become China’s by default?” the NSA is believed to have replied.

The sharp exchange was followed by many rounds of negotiations in which India tried to hammer out a solution.

Aggression to agreement: The inside story of the Doklam deal

NEW DELHI: "Is it your territory?" China's state councillor Yang Jiechi bluntly asked national security adviser A K Doval on the presence of Indian troops at Doklam as the two met on July 27 in Beijing+ to make the first diplomatic stab at resolving the confrontation over the strategically crucial patch.

The sharp poser reflected the Chinese intransigence over changing the status quo+ at the trijunction of Bhutan, India and China by building a road through what India considers to be Bhutanese territory.

The toughness failed to faze Doval, who, according to sources here, is learned to have responded that the point of contention was not China's territory either as it had been claimed by Bhutan. "Does every disputed territory become China's by default?" sources quoted the NSA as having replied.

Doval asserted that the territory was part of Bhutan, and a treaty with the Himalayan kingdom obliged India to look after the latter's security. The NSA also stressed that Doklam was on the table during the several rounds of negotiations China has held with Bhutan to solve their border disputes, while reminding his interlocutor of Beijing's offer to hand over to the kingdom 500 sq km in the north in exchange for Doklam.

He is learned to have argued that China's claim over Doklam was not settled, and both sides should simultaneously pull back their troops to restore status quo.

The sharp exchange was followed by several rounds of negotiations between the two sides in Beijing in which foreign secretary S Jaishankar, along with India's ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale, tried to hammer out a solution.

The talks had been okayed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they met in Hamburg on the sidelines of the G20 meeting+ on July 7. The meeting saw Modi telling Xi that the dispute should not be allowed to escalate and suggesting that negotiations be held at the NSA level.

Modi asked his team to explore ways for early resolution of the confrontation, the worst in many decades, saying differences should not be allowed to turn into conflicts as the two countries had a lot to gain from cooperation. At the same time, he sketched his bottomline very clearly. "India will not allow the status quo to be changed by force under any circumstance.

Any change must happen through negotiations and through mutual understanding," the PM is learned to have emphasised.

The brief saw the government refusing to be baited by the endless barrage of provocative statements and actions from China, including "conspicuous" movement of missiles+ and tanks, and scuffles+ at other border points.

The posture of restraint saw the Army being instructed to ignore provocations. "Even a single shot fired by an edgy soldier could have sparked a wider conflagration in such tense times," said a senior officer as he expressed admiration for the Army leadership for enforcing compliance. But the Army did not lower its vigil even for a moment as it reinforced men and material at the confrontation site, and moved back-up forces close. "We knew that the rhetoric and the movement of missiles etc were mind games intended to get us to blink. But at the same time, we were prepared for any eventuality which might have been forced on us," said a source who added that China, used to having its way in territorial disputes with countries like the Philippines, had not bargained for India's doggedness and finally came around to realise that negotiations were the only way out.

2017: How the Doklam standoff was resolved

Diwakar, 2am meeting led to new dawn in Sino-Indian ties, Sep 9, 2017: The Times of India

Both Sides Now Look At Relationship As Vehicle To Expedite Devpt

Late in the evening on August 27, Indian ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale was told the Chinese were keen to know how soon they could meet him. Gokhale conveyed that he was in Hong Kong and could reach only past midnight even if he booked himself on the first Beijing-bound flight. He was urged to reach the Chinese capital as fast as he could, in a first clear indication that the quiet and dogged attempt to defuse the Doklam imbroglio may have borne fruit.

It was 2 in the morning when he sat down with Chinese foreign ministry officials to discuss details of the Doklam disengagement. It took the two sides three hours to hammer out a mutually acceptable resolution and, potentially , lay the foundation for a new beginning between the giant neighbours. For, the announcement by the two governments the next day not only defused the stand-off -the worst in decades -on the Himalayan plateau but appeared to indicate a greater understanding between the two sides to put bilateral ties on a stronger footing where they avoid conflicts and focus on development.

Senior government sources said the de-escalation was facilitated by a larger agreement between the two principals -PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping -that the two sides approach and pursue their ties as a mutually beneficial opportunity; a vehicle to speed up development.

“Both leaders agreed the two sides have a lot to gain from a partnership which helps them grow faster, and that approaching the bilateral equations as a zero-sum game, where one's gains are invariably at the cost of the other, will be a folly. This is what helped the two sides to achieve the bre akthrough and formed the basis for positive talks on the sidelines of the BRICS summit,“ a key government functionary familiar with the details said.

China's foreign minister Wang Yi articulated pretty much the same when he told reporters in Beijing that Xi and Modi, during their “successful“ talks on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, had agreed to avoid border confrontation to ensure healthy and stable development.

In his first remarks after the agreement on Doklam, Yi said, “Sino-Indian relations are not derailed. Sino-Indian development represents the future of the world... win-win cooperation is an inevitable choice and the correct direction for Sino-Indian ties.“

The convergence of views indeed appears remarkable considering that matters threatened to spiral out of control during the 73-day eyeball-to-eyeball stand-off and was achieved by the PM's belief that the two sides had nothing to gain from escalation.

Modi, while firm that he wouldn't allow borders to be redrawn by force, was keen not to let the dispute snowball into a full-scale confrontation.He went about the objective by enforcing message control and by designating the foreign ministry as the only agency authorised to speak. The discipline sought to be enforced applied to BJP . The party as well as some Sangh Parivaraffiliated outfits were conspicuous by their silence during the stalemate, something remarkable given their prickly sensitivities and the torrent of provocative statements from China's official media.

The PM did not waver even amid signs of discomfort in BJP circles and taunts from rivals and commentators for “pusillanimity“. “Someone who didn't allow slights like visa denials to seek better diplomatic ties with the US, the UK and the European Union would not have allowed himself to be distracted by jeers,“ said a senior officer.

Modi also did not let Doklam affect normal business with China. At least half a do zen ministers visited Beijing during the showdown, and with the clear instruction to focus on the possibilities of cooperation. The tenacity worked, resulting in what top-level sources called “extremely positive response“ from Xi when the two leaders met in Xiamen.

BJP has refrained from publicly celebrating the resolution of the crisis, but party members and officials, speaking privately , are all praise for the PM. “Who would have thought that a man who comes across as aggressive and whose eligibility was questioned because of his chaiwala background would use strategic restraint to achieve results,“ a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The member listed a string of diplomatic achievements -from arranging gas at cheaper rates from Qatar and renegotiating double tax avoidance treaties with Mauritius and Singapore to broadening of strategic cooperation with the US and speeding up delivery of arms supplies from Russia.

It took 13 rounds of talks to settle Doklam

December 18, 2018: The Times of India

It took 13 rounds of diplomatic discussions between India and China to resolve the face-off between their militaries in Doklam last year, according to a report by a parliamentary panel.

The report by the committee on external affairs termed the Chinese intrusion at Doklam a “blatant but unsuccessful attempt” to unilaterally change the status quo at the India, Bhutan, China tri-junction in Doklam, seriously affecting India’s security interests.

The committee also referred to 24 rounds of boundary talks between China and Bhutan and said China has been trying to persuade it to barter Doklam for some other territory and that Bhutan requires all support from its “time-tested” ally India for it to take a firm position on this issue. Complimenting the government’s handling of the face-off, the committee said it remained concerned that Chinese infrastructure built “uncomfortably” close to the tri-junction has not yet been dismantled.

The committee, headed by former minister of state in external affairs ministry Shashi Tharoor, said Doklam was not a sovereignty issue for India as the disputed territory was Bhutanese, but nevertheless it was a major security challenge for New Delhi.

The report said diplomatic communications with China began following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hamburg on July 7 last year on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

In the talks, India contested the Chinese claim of sovereignty in Doklam region, conveyed to Beijing that its action represented a significant change in status quo with serious security implications for India and amounted to unilateral determination of the trijunction point, according to then foreign secretary.

The committee complimented the government’s overall handling of the crisis.


'China wanted to split India, Bhutan over Doklam'

February 21, 2018: The Times of India


China wanted to "show the Bhutanese that India could not defend their security and also to arouse Bhutanese opinion (on it). I am glad we chose to react the way we did: Shivshankar Menon

Menon, who was NSA between 2010 and 2014 in the previous UPA rule, also said there was a need for an integrated approach in managing the country's borders

China's political goal was to "split" India and Bhutan over the Doklam standoff, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said on Wednesday while appreciating the way the government handled the issue. Menon, who was NSA between 2010 and 2014 in the previous UPA rule, also said there was a need for an integrated approach in managing the country's borders. "One reason why we saw that activity in Doklam last year was not because they (China) had a clear military option or superiority but they had the political goal of splitting us from the Bhutanese," he said at a conference here.

India and Bhutan have close ties and New Delhi has been providing military support to the country. He said China wanted to "show the Bhutanese that India could not defend their security and also to arouse Bhutanese opinion (on it). I am glad we chose to react the way we did." Menon had also served as India's foreign secretary from October 2006 to August 2009.

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28.

As a close friend and neighbour, Bhutan enjoys diplomatic and military support from India.

Delving into various aspects of border management, Menon said the armed forces must take the people of the border areas of the north-eastern states into confidence on such issues.

It is important to carry the people with you, he said.

The conference on 'Bridging gaps and securing borders' in the northeast was attended by the top brass of the defence forces including Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.

2018: China builds helipads, trenches

China building helipads, trenches at Doklam: Govt, March 6, 2018: The Times of India

The People’s Liberation Army has undertaken “construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts, trenches and helipads” near the face-off site between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam in the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction area, said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“Post disengagement from the face-off in 2017, troops of both sides have redeployed themselves away from their respective positions at the face-off site. The strength of both sides has been reduced,” said the minister, in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha.

As was earlier reported by TOI, though Indian troops in June last year had blocked China’s attempt to extend the existing motorable road southwards towards the Jampheri Ridge in south Doklam, which led to the 73-day troop face-off before disengagement on August 28, the fallout has been that the PLA has constructed military infrastructure and helipads as well as deployed around 1,600 troops in north Doklam throughout the winter for the first time.

Sitharaman, on her part, said the Indian government “regularly takes up the issues” arising along the 4,057-km line of actual control with China through diplomatic channels and established mechanisms, including border personnel meetings, flag meetings and meetings of the “Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs”.

But the Indian security establishment believes that PLA soldiers may return in “greater numbers” to the Doklam area (or the Dolam Plateau) for some more muscle-flexing after the winter is over. Junior defence minister Subhash Bhamre last week had also said that the situation along border with China was “sensitive”, with the potential to escalate in the coming months.

To a separate question on a Pentagon report that said China was setting up a military base in Pakistan, Sitharaman said the government keeps a constant watch on developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes measures to safeguard it.

“The government is aware of China’s stated objective of becoming a ‘maritime power’. As part of this strategy, China is developing ports and other infrastructure facilities in the littoral countries in the Indian Ocean Region, including in the vicinity of India’s maritime boundary,” she said.

See also

Bhutan- China relations

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