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Doklam standoff put Trump administration in awkward position: Expert

US was not keen to get involved in dispute amid growing concerns over North Korea

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Donald Trump
(Photo: Reuters)

The standoff between and had put the administration in an awkward position and it was not eager to get embroiled in, especially at a time when it was grappling with and seeking Beijing's assistance, an American expert has said.

and on Monday ended their 73-day standoff in by withdrawing troops from the area, just days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa) summit.

Jeff Smith, research fellow, South Asia, The Heritage Foundation, said that the administration was put in an uncomfortable position by the crisis.

"This was not a dispute they were eager to become embroiled in, particularly at a time that they're dealing with an increasingly intractable problem in and seeking China's assistance on the matter," he said.

Noting that he has no direct insights into the internal discussions within the administration on the issue, Smith said, "If you read between the lines the administration's comments on the dispute, they, like Japan, were de-facto supportive of India's position."

"If China's bottom line was a full Indian withdrawal as a precondition for negotiations, by encouraging talks without preconditions the administration was essentially signalling to both parties that it supported Delhi's approach and ultimately that's what happened," said Smith, who had testified before multiple congressional committees.

"Fortunately, despite its maximalist position in public, behind the scenes, was flexible enough to negotiate and ultimately reach a mutually face-saving, sufficiently ambiguous settlement that satisfied both sides' minimum requirements," he said.

Smith - who has replaced Lisa Curtis, now appointed as Director South Asia National Security Council, White House - said in many ways showed and the world that it took the high road, spoke softly, and carried a big stick.

"clearly articulated its goals and it achieved those goals," he said, adding that has been very successful in the grey zone coercion tactics in the South Sea and elsewhere.

According to Smith, whoever was advising the Chinese government and proposed that strategy failed to account for India's resolve on the matter. "I think there will be a period of review and reassessment in Beijing; an effort to find out what went wrong," he added.

First Published: Fri, September 01 2017. 17:26 IST
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