The bone of contention called China

Barely a month has passed since India and China agreed to pull out troops from the disputed Doklam Plateau area of Bhutan near Sikkim, the focus is back on the region amidst report that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has strengthened its build up in the area.

The presence of Chinese troops in Chumbi valley overlooking the Doklam Pleateau was confirmed by Indian Air Force chief Birender Singh Dhanoa on Thursday signalling that another round of diplomatic effort would be required to diffuse the situation before it reaches the escalation point.

The Chinese troop presence in the area challenges the popular narrative in India that it had forced the PLA to withdraw after a tense stand-off that lasted nearly two months. The ruling party’s ideological fountainhead RSS listed handling of Doklam stand-off as one of the achievements of the Modi government.

But the situation on the ground seems to be unfolding in a manner that has caused fresh headache for the government. There are reports that China has resumed work on the construction of road that was the main bone of contention between New Delhi and Beijing. India wanted the construction of road to stop as it altered the status quo on the unresolved boundary question.

Indian troops had crossed the boundary for the first time and prevented Chinese workers from constructing road in Doklam Plateau in the Bhutanese territory. Beijing challenged the claim and asserted that Doklam Plateau was its own. By strengthening its force level, the PLA has displayed that it has altered the ground situation prevailing on June 16 when the stand-off started.

New Delhi hopes to persuade Beijing to pull back its troops by the dynamics of guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has permanently change post-Doklam. The winter months are approaching but India army will continue its force levels unlike in the past where deployments used to change with weather.

Cold breeze is blowing between the two armies as well as the annual border meeting that was to be held on October 1 was called-off. The “hand-in-hand” exercise between Indian army and the PLA also has been put on hold. It is amply clear that tension between the two sides is still simmering.

Gautam Gupta