The Doklam Standoff and After: Whither India-China Relations?

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

The standoff between China and India in the Doklam area of Bhutan has been resolved with each government putting out differing versions of the exact terms of the settlement. But it is certain that status quo before 16 June this year has been restored. The Chinese have stopped their road construction in the area, which had led to the Indian action in the first place and Indian troops have pulled back to their positions.

The Chinese government has sought to sell the deal as a case of the Indians having blinked, of having bowed to Chinese threats and coercion. It is doubtful that the line has much purchase even within China where the netizen community might have constraints on their conversations but are not stupid and not entirely without access to information from the outside world. Continue reading “The Doklam Standoff and After: Whither India-China Relations?”

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In the Wake of Doklam: India-China Relations Entering a New Phase

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

This article was originally published as,‘भारत-चीन संबंध नये दौर में, in Rashtriya Sahara, 29 July 2017. The original English version follows below the Hindi text.

भारत के राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा सलाहकार अजित डोभाल बीजिंग में ब्रिक्स देशों के राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा सलाहकारों की बैठक में शिरकत करने चीन पहुंच चुके हैं। सभी निगाहें इस तरफ हैं कि क्या भारत और चीन इस मौके पर भूटान के डोकलाम क्षेत्र में बने तनाव को समाप्त करने में सफल होंगे। लेकिन दोनों देशों के आधिकारिक बयानों पर गौर करें तो लगता है कि चीन किसी सूरत पीछे हटने को तैयार नहीं है। न केवल इतना बल्कि वह भारत के खिलाफ तीखे बयान भी दे रहा है। मांग कर रहा है कि उसके क्षेत्र, जिसे वह अपना होने का दावा कर रहा है, से भारत अपने सैनिकों को पीछे हटाए।

लेकिन इस मामले से जुड़े तय बेहद सरल-सादा हैं।

Continue reading “In the Wake of Doklam: India-China Relations Entering a New Phase”

Doklam Reminder: Need for Indian Redial in South Asia

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy

The standoff between Indian and Chinese forces at the Doklam plateau in Bhutan is now over a month old and though diplomatic efforts have continued, no early solution appears to be in sight. India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, is in Beijing for the BRICS NSAs meeting. It is possible that on the sidelines, he will be able to engage with Yang Jiechi, his counterpart in the special representative mechanism between the two countries. One should remain hopeful that these talks in Beijing will lead to a satisfactory resolution of the impasse and pave the way for relaxing tensions between the two countries. Confrontation will be damaging to the interests of both countries and is best not allowed to persist.

Such confrontation is also not in the interest of Bhutan, India’s neighbour with which there is a special relationship of mutual trust and understanding. The two countries have shared security interests, acknowledged in the revised bilateral treaty concluded in 2007. Any threat to Bhutan’s security will always be a major concern to India and similarly a security challenge to India will impact Bhutan as well. China’s encroachment on Doklam is often characterised as a security threat to India, particularly to the narrow Siliguri corridor linking India’s North-East to the rest of the country. But it is also a threat to Bhutan whose main communication links south also traverse the same Siliguri corridor. The action taken by Indian forces in Doklam is in response to a serious security threat to both countries. Continue reading “Doklam Reminder: Need for Indian Redial in South Asia”

Doklam – The Legal and the Bilateral

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

The ongoing standoff between India and China in the Doklam area in Bhutan is the result of a disagreement over the terms of the 1890 Convention Relating to Sikkim and Tibet[1] signed by the colonial British government in India and the Qing empire in China.

Contrary to the Chinese stress today on “Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier” (Article I) as the beginning of the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, India has pointed out that the specific trijunction point should be that point which adheres to the watershed as indicated in the same Article I of the Convention. Under the 2005 Agreement between India and China[2], the two countries agreed that “the delineation of the boundary will be carried out utilising means such as modern cartographic and surveying practices and joint surveys” (Article VIII) and that “[p]ending an ultimate settlement … the two sides should … work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas” (Article IX).

This clarifies several dimensions of this issue. Continue reading “Doklam – The Legal and the Bilateral”

Bhutan: the ‘Missing’ Piece of the Puzzle

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

In the latest faceoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area, the role and place of Bhutan has been easily overlooked. It is the Bhutanese after all that are contending with Chinese over the area and it is they who invited the Indians to take up cudgels on their behalf against the Chinese.

Bhutan is, in many respects, probably India’s only genuine ally in the region and this too, is largely the result of that country’s unique political history and development. The Bhutanese monarchy has played a key role in nurturing a close and beneficial relationship with India and India has in large measure reciprocated. While a tiny country, Bhutan has always been favoured with fairly senior and always competent Indian ambassadors in its capital and maintains the Indian Military Training Team in support of the Bhutanese army. Also worth remembering is the fact that it was to Bhutan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first official foreign visit after taking office.

That said, India should simply count itself lucky that it has managed to maintain a special place for itself in Bhutan’s international affairs for such a long time despite the vagaries of international politics. Continue reading “Bhutan: the ‘Missing’ Piece of the Puzzle”

Doklam: Understanding Chinese Actions in Bhutan

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Following the latest confrontation between China and India in the Doklam area of Bhutan, there is clearly an edge to the repeated Chinese calls to India to ‘immediately pull back’ Indian troops to their side of the boundary.

The Chinese have stressed that this ‘is the precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides aiming at resolving the issue’.

What should Indians make of this and what should we look out for? Continue reading “Doklam: Understanding Chinese Actions in Bhutan”

India-China Face-off in Doklam: Need for both Resolve and Prudence 

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy

The latest face-off between the Indian and Chinese security forces in Doklam, where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet, brings a sense of déjà vu. There was a similar extended face-off in the Depsang area in Ladakh in April 2013. There have been other incidents as well but the mechanisms in place to maintain peace and tranquillity at the border have eventually worked and the issues have been resolved. Both sides have remained committed to preventing escalation. One hopes that the Doklam incident will not be allowed to vitiate the relationship between the two countries, particularly in view of the fact that Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly had a friendly meeting on the sidelines of the recent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Almaty. Both leaders made a special effort to put relations back on a positive track after a somewhat prickly interlude, which included India’s refusal to join the Chinese-led One Belt One Road initiative. This turnaround in relations must not suffer a setback as a result of the latest incident. This may impact the prospects of a possible bilateral summit when the leaders attend the forthcoming G-20 summit in Hamburg. Continue reading “India-China Face-off in Doklam: Need for both Resolve and Prudence “