Why Doklam matters to India

China yesterday hinted it will maintain a sizable troops’ presence near the site of the Doklam standoff during the winter months. It also again asserted that the region is in Chinese territory. Here’s a recap of the standoff and an explainer on why Doklam matters so much to India:

*Doklam, situated in Sikkim, is strategically important for India, as it is a post bordering China and Bhutan. Any Chinese attempt to gain a foothold there is dangerous for India’s defence and sovereignty.

*Conceding Doklam without a fight could be taken as a weakness and encourage Beijing to bold moves in several other boundary disputes.

*Doklam is also situated at the India-Bhutan-China trijunction. Bhutan has no diplomatic ties with China and India has a special relationship – including militarily – with Bhutan. In short, India has responsibilities towards Bhutan, which include helping it guard its sovereignty. India gains too, with Bhutan firmly on its side.

*India is strategically located at the heart of China’s energy lifeline and the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. It’s strong position on Doklam could help stem any Chinese incursion to do with advancing the initiative.

*Therefore, when Chinese troops intruded Doklam plateau in Bhutan on June 16, to build a road, 270 Indian troops entered with bulldozers and weapons to stop construction.

*June 20: Bhutan, through its embassy in New Delhi, formally protested the Chinese road construction in Doklam plateau.

*June 29: China Foreign Ministry released a map depicting Doklam as part of China.

*July 6: China called off a meeting between Premier Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 meet, saying the “atmosphere was not right.” Later in the month, China’s military conducted live-fire exercises in Tibet, close to the India’s border in Arunachal.

*July 18: Chinese foreign ministry renewed its call for India to immediately withdraw its troops from Doklam to avoid any escalation of the situation.

*July 21: India called for simultaneous troop withdrawal by the two sides.

*July 22: Pentagon intervened and said India and China should engage in direct dialogue free of any “coercive aspects” to reduce the tension.

*August 7: Beijing rejected a suggestion earlier made by India for a simultaneous withdrawal of troops.

*August 10: Sushma Swaraj met her Bhutanese counterpart Damcho Dorji. Following this, India stationed more troops along the entire stretch of its border with China in north-east.

*August 15: A scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Pangong Lake in Indian controlled territory of Ladakh after Indian troops foiled a Chinese incursion attempt.

*August 18: Both India and China agreed to “expeditious disengagement” of troops at Doklam, but Beijing maintained it would not stop patrolling the disputed region.




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