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India and China have understanding on border management, says researcher


Press Trust of India Singapore
India and China have an understanding on managing border differences such as the 2017 Doklam standoff, feels a researcher at a prominent UK-based think tank.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day standoff in Doklam from June 16, 2017 after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese army.
Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28.
Antoine Levesques, a research fellow for South Asia at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), said that though there were chances for incidents like Dokhlam to happen again between India and China, there was an understanding that now was in place between the two neighbours.
The tension we witnessed around Doklam in 2017 was successfully managed by the two sides, but we can't rule out that something similar could happen again though there is in place an understanding between India and China since last year, Levesques said at the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue being held here from May 31 to June 2.
Referring to the understanding as so called Wuhan understanding, he pointed out that all the issues are full on the table and acknowledged by the two countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held an informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan in April 2018, months after the Doklam standoff, which was the most serious military face-off in decades between them.
I don't see that becoming a front issue in the relationship between the two countries, certainly in the next six months. But there has been surprises in the past, Levesques said.
He also highlighted that the US is promoting the Indo-Pacific concept which explicitly brings India into the heart of the strategic picture in partnership with Australia and Japan in the Quadrilateral group.
However, in the Indian strategic posture there still is this tension between the desire to maintain strategic autonomy and the desire to be the part of emerging front to balance China and the Chinese ambitions in the region, Levesques said.
The researcher also noted the expansion of the Indian Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard into the South East Asian region.
India's Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, for example, are on regular deployments in Singapore which Delhi sees as most important defence partner in South East Asia, he pointed out.
We are indeed seeing an expansion of exercises and operational deployments, but the thrust of the Indian Navy's strategic focus will remain the Indian Ocean for the foreseeable future, he said, recalling that Prime Minister Modi and the Naval chiefs have stressed in the past on the Navy focus being on the Indian Ocean.

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First Published: May 31 2019 | 5:05 PM IST

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