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India, China agree to end Doklam standoff

India, China agree to end Doklam standoff

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a press statement on August 28, 2017 declaring that India and China have agreed to an 'expeditious disengagement of border personnel at faceoff site in Doklam' along the China-Bhutan border.

The foreign ministry of China, however, maintains that while India was withdrawing its troops, they will continue to patrol in the Doklam Plateau. Moreover, China agreed that given today's developments, it will make "necessary adjustments and deployments according to the changes."

In effect, both governments seem to have agreed to go back to a status quo that existed before crisis began.

The breakthrough comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to China for the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen.

How it all began?

The standoff began on June 16, 2017 after Chinese troops started building a road on the Doklam plateau along the Bhutan-China border. This led Bhutan asking India to intervene in the matter as Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China.

Besides, the road building was also seen by India as a serious security concern because of the access it opens up to the narrow sliver of land called the "Chicken's Neck" or “Siliguri Corridor” that links India to its northeastern states.

Moreover, China’s decision to extend a road up to the Doklam plateau was in violation of the 2012 trilateral agreement on the border.

As a result, Indian soldiers were rushed to stop that, triggering the worst military tension in decades with China.

What it means to India-China relation?

Doklam deserves some introspection on the part of India. China seems to have assumed a passive Indian response to its initial construction efforts. Possibly New Delhi’s failure to respond to the initial Chinese action of demolishing two vacant Indian bunkers was misread. There was a miscalculation that was potentially dangerous.

The announcement of a withdrawal indicates neither side is interested in a wider conflict. But there needs to be some thought about the growing regional footprints of both countries and that their spheres of influence will brush against each other in third countries with increasing frequency.

 India and China should not see Doklam in terms of point-scoring but rather as a warning of the need for extending their border management framework across other borders as well.

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