After weeks of diplomatic negotiations, India and China agreed to disengage from the standoff on the Doklam plateau, disputed between China and Bhutan, with a formula that saw China promise to make “necessary adjustments” to their troop deployments, after Indian troops withdrew back to their posts in Sikkim on Monday.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, the process of disengagement by border personnel had been “almost completed under verification” from both sides by Monday evening, indicating that no more troops were expected on the face off point at Doklam, which reverted to status quo ante June 16.
“Peace and tranquility in the border areas is an essential pre-requisite for further development of our bilateral relationship,” affirmed the MEA, which issued two statements on Monday.
“The Indian side has pulled back all its personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary. In the light of the changes of the situation, on the ground, China will make necessary adjustment and deployment,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also said at a briefing on Monday. The agreement comes a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China to attend the BRICS summit from September 3 to 5. It also paves the way for a one-on- one meeting between Mr. Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on September 4, a senior government source confirmed to The Hindu .
Sources, however, denied reports that Mr. Modi’s visit to China had “ever been in doubt”, pointing to the fact that Indian ministers had attended all BRICS preliminary meetings despite rising tensions on both sides.
According to them, at the brief meeting between Mr. Modi and President Xi at the Hamburg G-20 summit, the leaders had taken a decision to give diplomacy a chance on the standoff.
“What is clear is that neither side wanted this dispute to overtake the relationship. What won was diplomacy, and the desire to see the big picture, and those in Beijing predicting war have lost,” said an official speaking of the parleys over the past few weeks, led by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Indian Ambassador to Beijing Vijay Gokhale.
According to other sources, the two sides would also see a meeting between the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his counterpart state councilor Yang Jiechi at the earliest.
While neither side spoke about the future of the Chinese PLA’s road construction towards Jompelri, the fact that troops and construction equipment would be cleared from the “face off point” indicated that China had put off any plans to further construct the road at the “turning point” area for the present.
However, Chinese officials maintained that “border troops continue to patrol in the Donglang area,” referring to the Chinese name for the Doklam plateau, and that China exercised “sovereignty” in the Doklam area, implying that Beijing, so far, did not consider the area of the face off as a disputed tri-junction point between China, India and Bhutan.
China step back
At least two Indian government sources confirmed that India had agreed to withdraw troops first as a “goodwill gesture”, giving the Chinese side a face-saver in the light of its angry statements. “One side had to move first,” said one official, “While we agreed to move first, China agreed to meet us half-way on the agreement.”
D. Raja, national secretary of the CPI said, “India and China have shown great maturity in ending the stand off. We have consistently maintained that the standoff should end.”
The Congress welcomed reports that the standoff had ended.
While officials denied that “any country” other than India and China had been involved, and only Bhutan was informed of the progress of talks, Russian diplomatic sources told The Hindu they had expressed “deep concerns to our partners in both capitals”.
(With inputs from Sandeep Phukan)