Commentary: Why China cannot back down in the Doklam standoff

Source
Xinhuanet
Editor
Li Jiayao
Time
2017-08-04

by You Dongxiao

BEIJING, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- The military standoff between China and India in the Doklam region has lasted for almost two months now, and there is still no end in sight.

China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiation and the only solution is the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the region.

The situation boils down to three main reasons why China will not, and cannot, back down.

Firstly, Doklam is Chinese territory and there is no doubt or dispute about it. The Doklam standoff differs from previous military confrontations along the China-India boundary in that it is the first intrusion into the Chinese side of the mutually recognized boundary.

The Doklam region belongs to China and has under Chinese rule for a very long time. This part of the boundary between Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Sikkim State is clearly delineated in the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet.

Every Indian government since independence has confirmed the boundary as it stands. It is hard to understand why India has decided to abandon its previous position and challenge the Convention at this time.

If China backs down now, India may be emboldened to make more trouble in the future. Beijing and New Delhi still have a number of differences over undefined sections of frontier, but Doklam is not one of them.

Secondly, it is simply illegal for India to send military personnel into Chinese territory, even under the pretext of "security concerns" or "protection" of Bhutan. This is not a grey area. India has not provided any legal basis at all for its action.

India contends that the building of some roads represents a significant change of the status quo with serious security implications and, in coordination with Bhutan, the Indian military attempted to stop the work in progress.

India attempts to justify its action in the name of protecting Bhutan, arguing that Doklam is Bhutanese territory, but even if that were the case, how does that entitle India to send troops there?

Although India and Bhutan have traditionally close relations, India recognizes Bhutan as an independent sovereign state. This raises the questions of when and why Thimphu invited India to protect its interests there. So far, there is no evidence that any such invitation was ever made.

Doklam is of huge strategic significance to India, due to its proximity to the Siliguri Corridor -- India's sensitive "chicken's neck" -- connecting seven northeastern states with the rest of the country.

India's own security concerns cannot possibly warrant a military occupation of a neighboring country. If they did, then any country could send its military forces unbidden into any neighboring country over purely internal security concerns.

Finally, the border line is the bottom line. China has relentlessly stated that it will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory away from the country at any time, in any form. China's position on such matters is crystal clear and unwavering.

Some Indian strategists and policymakers may be laboring under the misapprehension that China will back down sooner or later, citing resistance from vested interests in China's ongoing reform; that reform of the People's Liberation Army remains unfinished; and that India could play a key role in the United States' China containment strategy.

China has absolutely no reason or desire to enter into a war with its neighbor. After all, a peaceful and stable environment is crucial for China's economic growth and current reform drive, but it is ridiculous to conclude that China will allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be compromised. China will never back down in the face of foreign military pressure and will defend its native soil at all costs.

In sum, the only option is for India to unconditionally withdraw its troops from China and prevent any escalation of the crisis. Continued peace and tranquillity in the China-India border areas is undeniably in the fundamental interests of all.

(Editor's Note: You Dongxiao is an associate professor with the International College of Defense at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army)

 

 

Related News

Continue...