The 2-month long military stand-off between India and China has finally come to an end with both deciding to withdraw troops. This is a momentous victory for India, especially for Indian diplomacy. Let’s analyse the important aspects of this tense stand-off between tw0 nuclear powered nations, and how and why India won it despite China’s sabre-rattling, but first let’s recount the actual situation now at Doklam since many journalists are trying to portray this an Indian defeat.
India was opposed to China’s road construction in Doklam which it has succeeded in stopping. China will remove its construction parties and equipment. China will also withdraw its troops along with India doing the same. China has reported that it will continue to patrol the area which is not a problem as India was never opposed to this. Also, it is most likely that this patrolling will be done by Chinese border guards and not the main PLA troops. All in all, a return to status quo without a bullet being fired is a massive victory for India!
Indian Government Stood Firm
If one was to believe the Chinese media, war seemed inevitable. There were unprecedented threats from the state-run media. From reminding India of the 1962 debacle to signalling the start of a 2-week countdown to war, Chinese media did everything in its capacity to unnerve India and force the Narendra Modi government to withdraw troops from Doklam.
Despite the reality of China being a superior economic and military power, the Indian government must be applauded for not succumbing under pressure. India could have very easily let the road construction in Doklam continue in the first place without the media or the people coming to know about it, but the government took a firm stand against it by intervening militarily and defending the sovereignty of Bhutan. This the Chinese didn’t expect and were subsequently caught in a military stand-off with the Indian Army.
Along with making military intervention, India kept making diplomatic efforts to ensure that peace eventually prevailed. But these diplomatic efforts weren’t meant to appease the Chinese into not starting a war, these were meant to pressurize China into understanding that India doesn’t stand alone.
The biggest diplomatic victory was when Japan openly backed India on the matter. No other nation, not even Russia or Israel, backed India explicitly. This sent out a strong message to China that India doesn’t stand alone. Whereas China, a nation that is on a massive expansion of power through projects like OBOR found none of the nations openly supporting it even though China claims its investments in these countries through its project will bring prosperity to them.Even the US gave certain tacit signals that in the eventuality of a war between India and China it would support India.
The BRICS summit begins in China on September 3. One possible explanation why China decided to end the stand-off now is that India may have conveyed to China that Prime Minister Modi won’t attend the summit if China doesn’t concede to a peaceful resolution to the matter. If this was the case indeed – and we’ll never know if this actually happened – then this was a cleverly played move by the Indian government.
The aspect that probably made the biggest impact was the Chinese feeling the heavy economic costs it’ll have to suffer if the matter escalates into a war. India was beginning to impose anti-dumping duties on Chinese products in the last few days. Just recently India imposed anti-dumping duty on 93 products that were imported from China.
In addition to the $51 billion trade surplus that China enjoys with India – which would have been at risk had China initiated military action – China has around $60 billion worth of project ongoing in the country. A war would have dealt severe damage to these investments of Chinese firms. Along with that, a war would’ve essentially closed the biggest and most rapidly growing market in the world to most Chinese products hampering employment in China.
Ever since India placed troops in Doklam to prevent the Chinese construction of road, India took further steps to show that it was ready for a confrontation. Troops were moved to the border and a major annual military exercise that takes place in the same region was preponed.
Definitely the armed forces must have taken other steps to show complete preparedness that didn’t make way into the public domain as they needed to be kept a secret. But the Chinese did fear that a military confrontation could lead to them having to suffer an embarrassment.
Main reasons for this being that the IAF has a considerable advantage in warfare over Tibet and that the Indian Navy could have starved China of oil and stopped its trade by blocking the Strait of Malacca. Also, China knows that it doesn’t enjoy a clear advantage on land as mountainous warfare isn’t about mechanised vehicles and tanks, but mostly about infantry involvement, an area where India might actually be superior to Chinese soldiers.
The intent shown by the Indian government and the military leadership was commendable. To protect an ally by risking a war on itself is not something every nation can do. India did. I think this a moment to be extremely proud of Prime Minister Modi, the External Affairs ministry and obviously our military leadership.