India Shivering: China-India Sikkim Standoff

Despite being a powerful player in this conflict, China’s tolerance over the issue highlights its sincerity and efforts to maintain peace.

Doklam is a narrow plateau which lies in the tri-junction of China, India and Bhutan. It is part of the Sikkim sector. The Indo-China border is 15 km away from the area and China-Bhutan official border is 30 km away from this town. Historically, it is part of Tibet since hundreds of years back and Tibet is part of China since ancient times. However, Bhutan on the instigation of foreign elements claim the area to create trouble for China in the Tibet valley.

Asserting their legitimate sovereignty over the area the month of June 2017, Chinese authorities started extending the road network from Yadong to further south in Doklam Plateau. Most importantly to mention, India has no claim to the Doklam plateau but in animosity against China, supports Bhutan’s claim in the territory. Bhutanese government had signed peace accords and agreements with China in 1988 and 1998 however contrary to their commitments, begged India to step into the matter. On 18 June 2017 Indian troops crossed into the territory of China that is alleged to be in dispute and attempted to prevent the construction of the road.  At first interruption, Chinese military personnel handled the matter with cool headedness without escalation.

China could have used its force to fight the intrusion but in order to avoid causalities and collateral damage they maintained restraint. India-China Sikkim sector incident has caused uproar in Beijing. Senior military officials and Government bodies took the matter very seriously, displeased by Indian behavior. China is so far issuing warnings to the Government of India at the diplomatic level. Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters “Our diplomatic channel is unimpeded but withdrawal of Indian troops from the area is ‘pre-condition’ for meaningful dialogue”. It is a clear indication that China is not going to tolerate Indian interference in the matter any longer.

Chinese think tanks and strategic experts are arguing that China could use the same pretext that the Indian army is using to stop Chinese military from constructing a road in Doklam area in Sikkim sector on behalf of Bhutan. The same tactics could be adopted if India resorts to any further misadventure. Pakistani defense analyst Major-General (R) Athar Abbas talking about military tactics once said, “To deal with hostility requires a hostile act, only then the negativity of action is neutralized”. Chinese security experts have questioned the legitimacy of the policy by asking whether it could be applied in favour of its regional ally Pakistan as well. In a state-run daily, they wrote that using the same logic, if the Pakistani government requests china to step in, a third country’s army can enter the disputed territory of Jammu-Kashmir. This statement of Chinese strategic planners came as a shock to New Delhi not expecting such a maneuver.

After the escalation of this incident, China and India are engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area in Sikkim sector for the past six weeks. India is violating the international borders of neighboring countries and interfering in internal affairs of China and Bhutan. The Chinese can now claim evidence to illustrate its position at the world stage using its influence.

Despite being a powerful player in this conflict, China’s tolerance over the issue highlights its sincerity and efforts to maintain peace, as an emerging responsible powerful country. Chinese media and diplomats are advising Indian intellectuals to stop fostering anti-China sentiments in the region and to refrain from further worsening the situation. Whereas option of military action could be the final resort if the situation arises but China already has plenty of cards to play before that, and it will save its bigger cards for the future.

Chinese army is conducting military exercises simulating real battle scenarios at high altitudes specifically testing new equipment and light weight battle tanks specially designed for mountain warfare. The duration of exercise has not been mentioned by military spokesperson Col. Wu Qin but confirmed regarding test trials of sophisticated weapons, something that has put India on alert. Diplomatically China is pressuring India with Xi Jinping refusing to meet Modi at the recent G-20 summit. China denied the possibility of stating that the ongoing conflict does not provide the appropriate atmosphere for a bilateral meeting, according to a Chinese foreign ministry official, although it was being speculated that Modi and Xi Jinping will try to resolve the issues in the upcoming summit.

China says that India has “trampled” all over “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” also known as Panchsheel Treaty by violating the territorial supremacy of China. Chinese foreign ministry affirmed that India should “correct its mistakes” otherwise situation will become grave. Foreign spokesperson Geng Shuang said that India is misleading public by saying that incident has happened over the tri-junction area. Moreover, China is sending a message so that India should stop using Dalai Lama card in diplomacy and New-Delhi’s political act of Tibetan Flag hoisting is like playing with the wild fire because the issue of Tibet is of China’s core interest and China won’t keep quiet on such provocations. Apart from this, there is footage being broadcasted on China Central TV (CCTV) in which Chinese army has wounded and killed 154 Indian soldiers in retaliation of Indian aggression. Indian Minister of External Affairs Gopal Baglay has denied the claim. The footage of the skirmish is widely circulated by various social media platforms.

M. Waqas Abdullah

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