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'China adopting South China Sea strategy in Doklam'


A former Indian Army official has said that China is adopting the same strategy in Doklam which it implemented in South China Sea, by claiming its sovereign territory.

"Military threat or provocative statements cannot be an answer to this problem. The history can be interpreted by both sides to suit their claims, threat to revise policies can be from both sides (If China can talk about rethinking Sikkim/Kashmir policy/ or intervening in Nepal triangle, India can also talk about rethinking Tibet/One China policy or establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan), the militaries have grown both sides, the escalation dynamics of conflict will block growth and economic dreams of both countries, and the reality is that none can deter another," said Major General S B Asthana ,SM,VSM (Veteran) referring to border standoff between India and China on Doklam issue.

He said even though China has resorted to adopting Sun Tzu's principle of 'winning without fighting' or trying to compel India to withdraw its troops without fighting, India is well placed to resist any action, without making much noise and maintaining its balance.

"The Chinese strategy as described above in case of Doklam Plateau has also been adopted in South China Sea, with some differences. This is evident from the fact that China on the pretext of sovereignty claims based on her perspective of historical maritime boundaries has carried out incremental encroachment into South China Sea, as part of her 'Active Defence Policy' which is worrisome for other claimant countries, as well as troublesome for other users of South China Sea following UNCLOS," he said.

Citing China's statement saying "the islands in the South China Sea (SCS) have been China's territory since ancient times, and China has the right to safeguard its territorial sovereignty", Major General Astana said it indirectly means that the must accept whatever China claims as part of Qing dynasty or any other historical period as per it's convenience, as sovereign territory of China.

Doklam Plateau involves limited players as compared to South China Sea (SCS)

In a border standoff of this kind, neither side wants to appear weak, so the two countries must find a peaceful manner and face-saving gesture to ease tensions. To resolve the current face-off the defence expert suggests:-

• Diplomatic engagement without preconditions will have to commence immediately setting aside hard stands, war of words, and rhetorics. In case either side doesn't want to be looking compromising to its people, Track2/informal talks can begin as a face saving measure, followed by formal talks. Any precondition laid down by either side, is likely to be resented, and prolong the stand-off.

• China should stop construction of road immediately, honoring sovereignty of Bhutan and Trilateral agreement of 2012.

• Once status quo of pre-standoff period is achieved, military of both sides should pull back to pre standoff positions simultaneously.

• As a long term measure both China and India should expedite demarcation of LAC on ground, and disseminate it up to the level of troops manning the borders to prevent future face-offs, which is avoidable by cooperative political intent followed by intense diplomatic efforts.

There are reasons why China has selected Doklam to needle India:

• India and Bhutan boycotted Belt and Road Forum (BRF), the Doklam ingress could demean both the countries simultaneously.

• Harping on 1890 Treaty by China takes away the logic of Tibet, as a player in dealing with India, thus a subtle message to Dalai Lama that he is not a stake holder in Tibet.

• Test the depth of Indo- Bhutanese security relationship.

• The area being too close to Siliguri Corridor/Chicken's Neck, India had to be concerned and caught in awkward situation in deciding to intervene or otherwise, thereby getting a message not to challenge Beijing in future.

• As the construction activity was in Bhutanese Territory, a violent Indian reaction was not expected.

• In case India takes action, China can proclaim itself as an innocent victim and blame India to be an aggressor.

Asthana said that China was however surprised by an unexpectedly strong Indian reaction, and then it realized that the point chosen was such, where it had strategic and tactical disadvantages in escalating it.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mon, August 14 2017. 23:42 IST