Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Doklam Standoff between China and India is more complex than that what is made to appear.

The public may be under the impression that Indian soldiers are still at Doklam side claimed by China. That cannot be true.  Indian soldiers had gone into the disputed area between China and Bhutan upon which India has no claim of her own.  However, it is apparent that the Indian soldiers were pushed back and subsequently Chinese soldiers had entered the Indian line on Sikkim side and even destroyed few border post make do shelter of the Indian Army. So now both must be at their original post albeit with additional re- inforcement.

The video footages in fb of Chinese and Indian soldiers confronting each other are of different times and at different place , not at Doklam. The Indian Army has been very tight lipped about the present Doklam incident. Therefore, there is no chance of them sharing video footages.  

In the year 2012,  India and China had agreed not to interfere into border issues that India or China may have with  Bhutan or Burma ( Myanmar) at tri-junction boundaries.  And on that basis, the Border Agreement between Indian Sikkim and Chinese Tibet was finalised. It seems that both the Doklam status of China and the  Nathu La Trade Route Opening were part of several  overall understandings reached between India and China. Also during the Sino- Bhutan Border Talks, the Chinese position on Doklam Plateau was very clear and firm from the very beginning. Bhutan understood the  Chinese claim regarding Doklam.

This time at Doklam, India had breached that Bilateral Agreement and understandings between China and India when Indian soldiers  transgressed into Doklam. And now in retaliation, China is  abrogating that Agreement and demanding that Indian Army withdraw back from its existing position at Sikkim -Tibet border. China is insisting upon re-negotiating the Tibet- Sikkim border.

India had not expected such a strong reaction from China. And caught flat footed, tried to wriggle out of the tight corner by saying that Indian Army entered Doklam at the request of Bhutan Army. In other words declaring that Bhutan is a " Protectorate " of India. And projecting a international posture of India protecting  tiny Bhutan from a big bully China.

Bhutan naturally cannot support such blatantly invasive contention of India. Bhutan is a sovereign nation and member of UN. Not a "  Protectorate " of India.   And anyway China is not buying any such blabbering from India.

It appears that an overzealous Defence Ministry of India ordered the Indian Army intrusion into Doklam area. Maybe it was one strategy aimed at foiling Sino- Bhutan Border Agreement happening during the next Ministerial level Sino- Bhutan Border Meeting. It could also be an internal strategy of Defence Ministry officials to push through lucrative Defence Purchase Deals through hyping Sino- Indian conflicts at sensitive border points. Defence Deals worth billions of dollars could result in huge dividends for those making the Deals. And any sign of heightened tensions with China or Pakistan could hrlp to seal big defence related procurement Deals. 

Whatever the reasons may have been for the unprecedented transgression at Doklam, the Indian war hawks  had not  envisaged such a huge fallout upon the Sikkim -Tibet Border Agreement and the Kashmir conflict.  India had already breached part of understandings with China by playing up the Dalai Lama card at Arunachal. And Doklam intrusion sort of broke the camel back. Since the departure of the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to take up the post of Goa Chief Ministership, the Defence Ministry of India under Shri Arun Jaitley has been embarking upon a new defiant policy against China.

It is also quite clear that Indian Army Command was against such a confrontational move at Doklam.  But had followed the order issued by the Defence Ministry. The fallout from the foul up by the Defence Ministry has compelled Modi Cabinet to trim away Defence Ministry bureaucratic  powers and transfer the same to the Indian Army Command. Recently the strategic and defence powers including armament procurement authority of both the Chief and Deputy Chief of Indian Army have been considerably enhanced.  India may also find it necessary to appoint a full time new Defence Minister. Presently Shri Arun Jaitley is holding double portfolios of Finance and Defence Ministries. And that may have lead to war hawks at Defence Ministry taking over.   

India could be prepared to fight 2 and 1/2 wars at the same time. But this is turning out to be 5 and 1/2 wars. Chicken Neck, Arunachal,  Kashmir, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea plus that 1/2 meaning internal security. And America, Japan and Israel cannot be trusted to fight from Indian side against China in case of war. Going against three nuclear nations China, Pakistan and North Korea for sake of Indian interest alone is not sufficiently tempting for United States. And in any case, other world powers would love to see India and China bleed each other as they look upon from afar.  What America and other nations dread is the two Asian powers teaming up.

China was fully aware of behind the scene Indian pressures upon Bhutan in  Sino- Bhutan Border negotiations throughout the last 34 years and 24 rounds of Talks. But China could not take punitive action until India directly and openly showed her hand. And this time at Doklam, India unmasked herself. That was what China was waiting for. 

Now I think an Indian advance peace team is already in Beijing to be joined by Indian Security Advisor later. India is adopting a conciliatory approach to save the 2012 Sikkim- Tibet Border Agreement. The Indian Diplomat and Security Analyst Phunchuk Stobdan who recently authored the article  " India's Real Problem lies in its Foreign Policy, Not Border "  seems to be  also a member of the Indian advance team at Beijing. His article is a sign of conciliatory gesture from the Government of India.

The Doklam standoff crisis may dissipate  if India truly backs off from Sino- Bhutan Border negotiation and in other areas like opposing One Belt Road Initiative and stop playing up Dalai Lama card.  I hope all goes well between our giant neighbours. War is terrible for all of us.

There is no written security pact as such between India and Bhutan or Bhutan with China. However, if Bhutan is invaded by either India or China, one could rightly assume that the other giant neighbour will get involved because of their respective concerns for national security. For both India and China, Bhutan’s buffer status is very crucial and non- negotiable.  As of date,  Bhutan has a 2007 Treaty ( revised 1949 Indo- Bhutan Treaty)  with India which recognises each other' s sovereignty and declaration of friendship.  Likewise Bhutan has an Agreement with China which also spelts out respect for each country's sovereignty and declaration of friendship. 

In regards to Doklam crisis, I would  like to reiterate that I have always had tremendous faith in the working of the Deities. And I hopefully pray that what happened at Doklam this time is a way of the Deities to clear the path for  Sino- Bhutan Border Agreement. There is always a possibility of a silver lining to every dark cloud. I dare to be optimistic as well as forthright.

May Triple Gem watch over the Kingdom and guide our Leaders. Pelden Drukpa Gyel Lo ! Lha Gyel Lo !


  1. The article: Danger at Dolam
    Current India-China standoff bears a resemblance to the dispute that sparked the 1962 war. But let’s not stretch the analogy

    Written by M Taylor Fravel | Published:July 18, 2017 12:47 am

    It seems to echo what you say.

    Unfortunately, the 1890 convention delimiting the border between Tibet and Sikkim may worsen the situation. The convention contains a contradiction that allows each side to claim it supports its own position. Article 1 states that the border begins at Mount Gimpochi, roughly 3 km south of the Chinese road and the western point of the Jampheri Ridge. Article 1 also states that the boundary will follow the watershed. Unfortunately, however, Mount Gimpochi is not the start of the watershed, and the convention did not explain how to square this circle. Sometime between 1907 and 1913, Britain published a map of the area showing the border starting at Batang La, 6 km north of Mount Gimpochi, effectively changing the terms of the convention.

    The longer the standoff lasts, the more easily these positions will harden. For example, given the unprecedented Indian presence in territory disputed by China and Bhutan, China may conclude that it needs to strengthen its physical position on the Dolam Plateau. Beijing could build more permanent structures a kilometre or two behind the “turning point” at Doka La. That is, China may use the Indian challenge to justify further steps to consolidate its presence on Dolam. India would then be faced with accepting a larger, more permanent Chinese presence or escalating further to stop it. The most realistic outcome would be restoration of the situation before June. This would mean the return of Indian troops to Indian territory and the withdrawal of Chinese construction crews from the area. India may demand or hope that China will vacate the Dolam Plateau, but China is unlikely to leave an area where it believes it had already maintained a presence for decades. The danger inherent in the current stand-off demands a quick resolution.

  2. An objective view [very rare indeed] from USA,

  3. If the war broke out what would happen to Bhutan? China cannot send its soldiers to the “border area” when Indian troop can make attack from within Bhutan (and Sikkim), China has to destroy Indian troop in Bhutan in the first place in order to drive Indian troop out of that area. Consequently, Bhutan will become a war zone just like Syria. It’s time for Bhutan government (although hijacked by Indian) to send a message out that Bhutan does not want Indian troop there, …, as the result India has to pull its troop out, the following up consequence will be that India will punish Bhutan in winter, including cut off electricity and gas, but that’s still better than turn Bhutan into Syria. After all, for a girl by the name of Bhutan, being raped by Indian is better than being killed by the Chinese.

  4. Here is a researched article on the complex issue of India China Bhutan conflict at Doklam. It is from an Indian think tank "South Asia Analysis Group" . The paper is titled "Doklam Standoff-China Violates agreements with India and Bhutan" dated 5th July 2017 and written by Bhaskar Roy

    1. Bhaskar Roy's column seems in complete contravention to what Sr Wangcha Sangey had recounted above. Not sure if Bhaskar is being truthul or just toeing the Indian line here...

  5. Bhutan,

    China’s patience is getting thinner by the minute on this on-going Doklang/Doklam issue, with not only India, but also Bhutan. For the past 40 years, China has shown much more patience and respect to Bhutan as an independent country than your other neighbor, India has. What has China gotten in return? Constant poking in the eyes! This has got to stop one way or another, and if this poking keeps persisting, China will have no choice but to see how much of a protectorate Bhutan can be to a very corrupt and incompetent (both its government and army) country, like India, who doesn’t even have enough ammunition to protect itself, let alone Bhutan. Time is running out! Unless Bhutan changes its course soon, Kingdom of Bhutan will be a country no more in the immediate future.

    1. China is totally cognizant of the fact that Bhutan's foreign policy is heavily influenced by India but China always deal with Bhutan as equal between two independent sovereign nations, even though India always attempt to inject itself to deal with China on Bhutan's behalf. China won't fall for this trap. China patience with India is definitely getting thinner.

      Predictably India's media is still pushing the false narrative of Bhutan-needing-India's-help-against-a- threatening-China and using this pretext to gain more geopolitical advantage but increasingly the world's media are not falling for this kind of nonsense anymore.

      There are still some gullible Westerners buying into New Delhi's script but the market for this kind of nonsense is increasing difficult for New Delhi to sell. Bhutanese need to make its voice known otherwise India would have defined it for them. This blog is invaluable for this purpose.

  6. looks like you have been warned not to do anymore provocative writing/thinking...

  7. Why China is having expansion policy towards it's neighbouring country? It is claiming area which never it's own like aksai chin and South China sea?

    1. Who said China has an expansion policy towards its neighboring country? If that is the case shouldn't China be bigger now than it was before? China in fact has settled amicably twelve of its fourteen contiguous land borders with its neighbors except India and Bhutan, and often with much concessions.

      Aksai Chin literally means 'White pebble beaches of China' and is controlled by China, never by the British Raj.

      As to the South China Sea China's claim is much more solid than the other claimants.

      If you are an Indian you should realize that China absolutely has no interest in India's territory. Watch this clip from an American who has direct contact with the highest level of Chinese leadership and has great insight into the Chinese way of thinking, specifically with respect to India shortly after the 1962 war. Relevant part starts at 12:36

  8. yeah.. china has no issue with anyone else.. Vietnam, Phillipines, Indonesia, Japan etc all have acknowledged Chinese rights to all of South China Sea.. wow! a country that doesnt allow free press & foreign search engines for its people to know what worlds thinks of it is crying foul... How much can you lie ?

  9. China even does not regard India as a proper rival and India has kept shouting since 1962. We may not have convinient access to google but that does not mean we are blind. You may have convenient access to every information but how many Indians are willing to accept the others opinions which are against yours? How many Indians are prepared to listen patiently to other people's opinions before express their own? I know quite a not of Indian people and I have to say none of them are good at listening to other people's opinions, what you love is blablablabla without stop, which is ridiculously childish...

  10. Thank you for this insightful (and soulfully beautiful) post! I wrote a piece citing a couple of your posts here -

    The biggest winner here is Bhutan and peace. India (and China too) has many unfinished businesses they still need to deliver to her peoples. Go work on those ... instead of playing petty games on others' soils...

  11. I value the blog post.Thanks Again. Awesome.