A fortnight after the high-stakes Doklam standoff between India and China was diffused via diplomatic channels, soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army continue to remain on the contentious plateau. The PLA personnel have even built bunkers on a ridge line behind the disputed area, sparking fears of a fresh standoff between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
The Chinese presence on the plateau was raised by India during a September 8 flag meeting between the Indian division commander and his PLA counterpart at the Nathu La mountain pass. Despite the agreement to withdraw its Troops China has straight away bck stab India right after weeks of Settling down the Issue.
During the four-hour meeting, the Indian Army insisted that the agreed-upon August 28 disengagement would be incomplete without PLA soldiers vacating the plateau. The Chinese side is believed to have told the Indian army that they would get back after consulting their superiors.
An unspecified number of Indian and Chinese troops currently remain on the Doklam plateau, separated by a distance of 150 metres. The August 28 disengagement led to a successful visit by Prime Minister Modi to the BRICS summit in Xiamen, between September 3-5. PM Modi held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the latter emphasised the need for ‘peace and tranquillity on the border areas as a pre-requisite for the further development of ties’.
The 71-day Doklam standoff was sparked on June 16 when the Indian Army halted a Chinese construction party building a road in Bhutanese territory towards the Jampheri ridge. The ridge overlooks India’s sensitive Siliguri Corridor also called the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ due to its strategic vulnerability.
New Delhi fears that Chinese PLA being in close proximity to the Siliguri Corridor could allow it to cut the Northeast off from Indian mainland during a hypothetical conflict.
The standoff, which was marked by sharp bellicose from China’s state media, ended on August 28, with Chinese and Indian troops carrying out a sequential withdrawal from the disputed area and the Chinese halting road construction and taking back their equipment.
Sources privy to the September 8 meeting told India Today that the Chinese also insisted on patrolling up to the Jampheri ridge which is where they insist the trijunction between India, China and Bhutan lies.
Both India and Bhutan insist the trijunction lies four kilometres north of the ridge, at the Batang La pass. The flag meeting at Nathu La was the second since the August 28 de-escalation when both sides withdrew 150 metres from the disputed road construction site.
The first meeting, between Brigadier-ranked officers, was called for on August 30, a day after the de-escalation, when the Indian army objected to the Chinese leaving behind a flag at the spot guarded by eight soldiers. The Chinese withdrew two days later, but continue to occupy their positions on a ridge abutting the plateau where they have built the bunkers.
When asked if China will continue with building the road in the area, Hua said, “we will take into consideration all relevant factors, including the weather, to make relevant construction plan in accordance with the situation on the ground.”
Hua reiterated that Chinese border troops “will continue to station and patrol the Doklam area. We will continue to exercise our sovereignty with historic conventions.