It has now been more than 50 days since a standoff took place between respective armies of India and China in a narrow plateau lying in the tri-junction region of Bhutan, China and India. It is a disputed territory claimed by both Bhutan and China. Doklam is situated roughly 15 kilometers southeast of the Nathu La and about 30 kilometers of southwest of the Dramana Chhu (river) area often shown as disputed region between Bhutan and China. China which is claiming the disputed region as its own part on the basis of the Anglo-Chinese treaty of 1890 which was signed between the British Commissioner A.W. Paul and the Chinese Commissioner Ho Chang-Jung to negotiate trade relations and demarcate boundary along the Chumbi Valley. Ironically China rejects British era treaties when its own interests or greed are at stake.
The stand-off took place when China attempted to extent a road in a sector of Doklam triggering a stand-off between China and India and Bhutan against China.
“Boundary of talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March, 1959. The agreements also state that the two sides will retrain from talking unilateral action, or use of force to change the status quo of the boundary”an official statement of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan.
According to the Bhutanese Government, China attempted to extent a road that previously terminated at Doka La towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri near the Jampheri Ridge two kilometers to the south, that ridge, viewed as the border by China but as wholly within Bhutan by both Bhutanese and India, extents eastward approaching India’s highly strategic Siliguri Corridor. On 18 June, Indian troops apparently crossed into the territory in dispute between China and Bhutan in an attempt to prevent the road construction. In a 1949 treaty, Bhutan agreed to let India guide its foreign policy and defense affairs. In 2007, the treaty was superseded by a new friendship treaty that replaced the provision that made it mandatory for Bhutan to take India’s guidance on foreign policy, providing broader sovereignty to Bhutan and not requiring it to obtain India’s permission over arms import. Article 2 of the 2007 Friendship Treaty signed by India and Bhutan in 2007 states:
“In keeping with the abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India the Government of the kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests”.
Since several weeks Chinese state media have been running a propaganda against India amidst the stand-off and have been threatening for a small-scale war or a military operation in order to knock down Indian army from the disputed area. Several experts believe that this war-mongering as a propaganda tool to pressurize India while many believe that China can indeed wage a small-scale war as a face-saver. China was shocked by India’s firm and resolute stand as it never expected Indian army to protect Bhutan’s sovereignty in such a manner. Experts believe that the propaganda and war-mongering may continue till August as the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China meeting is due in the autumn this year. President Xi who is currently the General Secretary of the party would look forward to further strengthen his position and neutralize his opponents within the party. In order to achieve that he cannot afford to look weak against India at any cost therefore the heat between India and China is likely to remain same at least till the winter sets in.
Experts believe that it is highly unlike that China will attempt any misadventure against India over Doklam plateau as Indian army have higher strategic advantages due to its positioning on higher side of the region and also the trade benefits it enjoys from India. It is a thumb rule that the aggressors from lower region requires 3:1 ratio of army strength against the army holding position into the mountains. Also this ratio will keep on increasing as winter sets in. Attempt of any misadventure from Chinese side is likely to come in the border regions were India is weak and not in Doklam where India enjoys higher strategic advantages. India have already offered to pull back armies of the both countries simultaneously and maintain the status quo of the region which PLA tried to change two months back. Now it is upto China to decide the way forward.