Is it your territory?
The National Security Adviser of India, Mr. Ajit Doval was posed with a blunt question by China’s state councillor Yang Jiechi when the two met on July 27 to make a settlement over the disputable patch in the Bhutan-owned Doklam stretch. China had attempted to illegally traverse on this stretch of land at the India-Bhutan-China trijunction stretch by building a road across what India considers to be Bhutan’s territory.
However, this tough question failed to faze Doval, who, according to reliable sources, had most calmly replied that the stretch of land in question is not China’s territory either –
Does every disputed territory become China’s by default?
Asserting that the territory belongs to Bhutan, Doval stressed on the fact that India is obliged to look after Bhutan’s security as per a treaty with the Himalayan nation.
To prove that China always have had an eye over this diplomatically crucial juncture, the NSA reminded how Doklam had featured during the several rounds of negotiations between Bhutan and China in the past, and how Beijing had even offered 500 sq km in the north to Bhutan in exchange for Doklam.
This sharp exchange between the two countries was followed by several rounds of negotiations between the two sides in Beijing, with India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar and India’s ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale trying to reach out to a mutually acceptable solution.
These meetings were also sanctioned by the prime ministers of both the countries, especially when they met in Hamburg on the sidelines of G20 meeting on July 7. In fact, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping also agreed to the fact that the negotiations should be held at the NSA level in order to let the dispute not escalate any more.
PM Modi later asked his diplomatic team to reach to a solution at the earliest as this dispute had been the worst in numerous years and the two countries cannot afford to lose each other’s support any more. However, at the same time, the Indian Prime Minister also held that –
India will not allow the status quo to be changed by force under any circumstance.
Any change must happen through negotiations and through mutual understanding.
This brief from the prime minister saw New Delhi refusing to be baited by the endless barrage of provocative statements and actions from Beijing, including “conspicuous” movement of missiles and tanks at the Doklam area, alongside numerous scuffles at other border points.
In fact, the Indian Army was also instructed to ignore such provocations from their Chinese counterpart.
Expressing admiration for the Army leadership for enforcing compliance, a senior army officer has been quoted saying –
Even a single shot fired by an edgy soldier could have sparked a wider conflagration in such tense times.
However, this ignorance to provocations never meant that there would be lesser amount of security at the border. The security personnel at the border instead kept increasing its vigil and reinforced more men and amenities at the confrontation site, and also brought closer the backup men.
Adding that China, which is used to have its way during territorial disputes with countries like Philippines, finally felt dogged by the entire situation and understood that negotiation was the only way out, a source in the Indian Army said –
But at the same time, we were prepared for any eventuality which might have been forced on us.