Doklam row: India reasonably sure China does not want war despite angry rhetoric — “For India, it’s an existential imperative.”

By Rajat Pandit

 Updated: Aug 7, 2017, 10:24 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A workable option is for both India and China to simultaneously withdraw their troops, according to sources.
  • Sources add if it does come down to a skirmish, the Army is well-poised with “fully acclimatised troops”.
  • At Doklam, around 300-350 troops from both sides continue to be ranged against each other as of now.

File photo used for representation

File photo used for representation
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NEW DELHI: Far away from the actual faceoff site at Doklam, where rival soldiers are close enough to literally smell each other in the rarefied air of the high-altitude region, the Indian security establishment is reasonably sure China will not risk a war or even “a small-scale military operation” despite all its belligerent rhetoric.

A “face-saving” workable option is for both India and China to simultaneously withdraw their troops from the Bhutanese territory of Doklam (called Dong Lang by China) near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, said sources in the security establishment.

But, added the sources, if it does come down to a skirmish or battle, the Indian Army is well-poised with “fully acclimatised troops” and “an enhanced border management posture” to prevent “any misadventure” by the People’s Liberation Army+ (PLA).

India has repeatedly stressed war is not a solution to the on-going over 50-day standoff, with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj last week telling Parliament+ that bilateral dialogue, patience and “bhasha saiyam” (language restraint) was the way forward to diffuse tensions.

“Both countries do not want a conflict. A tactical operation by the Chinese border guards and PLA to construct a motorable road at Doklam (physically blocked by Indian soldiers on June 18) went awry, with the consequent strategic fall-out. Mutual troop pull-back or re-adjustment is the face-saver,” said a source.

But China is yet to sound conciliatory, at least in its public stance. The 7th edition of the annual “Hand-in-Hand” exercise between the Indian Army and PLA, which was to be held in China in October, is likely to be among the “casualties” of the faceoff. “Even the exercise’s initial planning conference, leave alone the final one, has not been held despite reminders to China,” said another source.

At the over 11,000-feet site in Doklam, the roughly 300-350 troops from the two sides continue to be ranged against each other as of now. Concertina wire coils around 150 metres long separate them there, with both having also built makeshift defences after earlier pitching tents and establishing logistical supply lines.

“The Chinese troops at the faceoff site are backed by around 1,500 PLA soldiers in three layers towards the rear. There are some verbal and loudspeaker exchanges but in a non-aggressive manner,” said the source.

Accidental escalation, however, remains a big worry. Indian Army formations in the region, including the 17 (Gangtok), 20 (Binnaguri) and 27 (Kalimpong) Mountain Divisions (each with over 10,000 soldiers), continue to be in a high state of operational readiness.

As was first reported by TOI,+ over 2,500 soldiers from the 164 Brigade were moved forward to Zuluk and Nathang Valley in Sikkim in June-July to add to the 6,000 soldiers under the 63 (Nathu La) and 112 (Chungthang) Brigades already deployed in eastern and north-eastern parts of the state.

“Our soldiers are, in any case, deployed at border outposts. The PLA, which does not man posts like our troops because China has better roads for quick deployment, moved forward its soldiers only after the face-off began in mid-June,” said the source.

As a military thumb rule, an attacker has to deploy three soldiers for every one of the defender in the plains. As the altitude increases, the ratio increases to 9:1 for mountain warfare. “Our troops are better placed and prepared for the long haul,” he added.

Sources say India remains steadfast about not allowing China to “bully” Bhutan into ceding ground in the Doklam region, which is “strategically crucial” because the Zomplri (Jampheri) Ridge there overlooks the Siliguri corridor or the “Chicken’s Neck” area. But it has maintained restraint in face of escalating rhetoric from Beijing.

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 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/doklam-row-india-reasonably-sure-china-does-not-want-war-despite-angry-rhetoric/articleshow/59945037.cms
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Showdown over small piece of land reflects bitter rivalry between Asian powers

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
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On a windswept Himalayan plateau usually frequented by seasonal yak herders, hundreds of troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army are locked in a stand-off over a small but strategic piece of land.
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Bullets are not flying, but rhetoric is, with Beijing warning New Delhi to “correct its mistake” by withdrawing its troops from the contested terrain, that China calls its own.  India — which says it is has merely come to the defence of its tiny neighbour Bhutan that also claims the land — has ruled out a unilateral withdrawal, while insisting it wants a peaceful resolution of the problem.
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In the past few days, China has ratcheted up its official demands for a swift Indian climbdown, raising fears of imminent escalation. A senior Chinese diplomat in New Delhi has warned of “serious consequences” if Indian troops fail to withdraw.
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The Chinese defence ministry told India that “restraint has a bottom line”. Analysts say the showdown on the Doklam Plateau — known as Donglong in Chinese — reflects the increasingly bitter rivalry between the two Asian neighbours, whose relations have deteriorated despite efforts to reset ties and foster stronger economic relations.
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Beijing is particularly irritated with New Delhi’s strengthening of strategic ties with both the US and Japan, and the privileged status that it grants the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. “Doklam is not about a road,” wrote Praveen Swami, the strategic affairs editor of the Indian Express newspaper.
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“It is a message about China’s ire at India building alliances with its adversaries in Asia, and with the US. Beijing seeks, through the threat of force, to instruct India on how countries ought to conduct themselves.” .
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For its part, New Delhi is wary of what it sees as China’s efforts to encircle India by increasing its influence over India’s neighbours, including its rival Pakistan. New Delhi is also anxious about China’s efforts to court Bhutan, whose international relations are in effect controlled by India, to the growing resentment of some Bhutanese.
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Zhang Ye, a fellow of the PLA’s Naval Research Institute, wrote that the stand-off was a “geopolitical competition in the disguise of a border dispute”, and would enable India to increase its military presence in the tiny Buddhist kingdom.
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“India is making use of Bhutan to increase its geo-advantage over China,” he wrote.
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The stand-off erupted in mid-June, when the PLA began extending a road towards a strategically important ridge on India’s border through terrain claimed by both China and Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom that New Delhi treats as a near protectorate.
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India says its soldiers were sent at Bhutan’s request to persuade the Chinese troops to “desist” from building the road — construction that the Bhutani capital of Thimpu says violates its agreements with Beijing about how to resolve the boundary dispute.
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But New Delhi also sees China’s effort to build a road towards Jampheri Ridge, which overlooks India’s Siliguri corridor, as a threat to itself. If completed, the road would allow the PLA to bring tanks within firing range of India’s most vulnerable point: the corridor is often referred to as the “Chicken’s Neck”, a narrow strip of land that connects its volatile north-east region to the country’s heartland.
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Indian security analysts say this was a “red line” that New Delhi — often tepid in its response to Chinese construction in other contested areas — could not allow to go unchallenged.
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“There is no way the Indian army can back out of this,” said retired army general Vinod Saighal, who previously served in the area. “For India, it’s an existential imperative.”
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Last week, Beijing claimed that New Delhi had reduced its troops on the disputed territory to just 48, but that it was simultaneously bolstering their position by “repairing roads in the rear, stocking up supplies, [and] massing up a large number of personnel” along India’s side of the border.
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“The Indian side is always keeping the word ‘peace’ on the tip of its tongue but we should not only listen to its words but also heed its deeds,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. Indian officials deny “thinning out” their military strength at the site of the stand-off and say several hundred troops remain arrayed against Chinese rivals some 100 metres away. “War cannot be a solution,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, told parliament on Thursday.
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“Even after war, we need to talk to find a solution. Wisdom is to resolve issues diplomatically.” India and China now look set for a protracted stalemate, which many believe could last until the onset of the area’s harsh winter or even beyond. “This looks like it’s going to be a long crisis,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
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“It’s a battle of wills and there is no easy answer. It’s a much more severe disagreement than any of the others we’ve seen.”
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Additional reporting by Emily Feng and Lucy Hornby in Beijing
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One Response to “Doklam row: India reasonably sure China does not want war despite angry rhetoric — “For India, it’s an existential imperative.””

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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