Doklam standoff resolved; Chinese, Indian troops begin pullback

28 August 2017

The Doklam issue between India and China is close to being resolved, with the two countries agreeing to end the nearly three-month standoff at the Sikkim border, the Indian government said today. The breakthrough was reached in diplomatic talks, India said.

"Expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing," a foreign ministry statement said.

China's official news agency Xinhua said Indian troops were withdrawing from the site.

''In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests. On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site in Doklam has been agreed-to and is ongoing,'' the MEA said in a press statement posted on Twitter.

The breakthrough comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to China in a few weeks for a summit of the BRICS group of nations. The summit will take place from 3-5 September in Xiamen in China. Modi had earlier met Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in an informal BRICS discussion on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg even as the standoff was going on.

Indian sources told NDTV that soldiers from both sides have begun withdrawing, but the process of removing them will not be completed today.

The conflict, which was the worst in decades, saw 300 soldiers from each side confronting each other on the remote Doklam plateau in the Eastern Himalaya. India ignored repeated baiting and aggressive rhetoric by China to insist it would seek diplomatic channels to resolve the tension. State-run Chinese media had been insisting on the unilateral pulling out of India's soldiers, and even resorted to war rhetoric.

In June, Chinese People's Liberation Army troops began constructing a concrete road in Doklam in what India says is Bhutanese territory. The Doklam plateau - known as Doka La locally and Donglang to the Chinese - overlooks the strategic Chumbi Valley.

Indian troops promptly halted the construction work, forming a human chain, calling it a change in the status-quo with serious security implications for India.

Delhi had also stressed that it had forewarned China that the road would be seen as a serious security concern because of the access it opens up to the narrow sliver of land called the Chicken's Neck that links India to its northeastern states.

China insisted that it had every right to build a road in a region that is part of its territory.

Chinese media and spokespersons repeatedly warned of military escalation, a possible "countdown to war" and of a repeat of India's humiliating defeat by China in 1962.

India believes that the Chinese have an eye on the Jampheri ridge, which is of utmost military importance for India. Beijing's strategic interest in the Doklam plateau has multiplied in recent years, with the upgrading of the road from Lhasa to Yadong, which allows the 500-km journey to be made in just seven hours. The road, which passes through Bhutan's territory, has significantly enhanced China's military logistics in the region.

In a separate incident two weeks ago, Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed at the picturesque Pangong Lake in Ladakh in the Western Himalayas. Soldiers were seen on camera hurtling stones at each other. Delhi said the two-hour conflict was triggered by China attempting an incursion onto the Indian side of the lake.

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