Sikkim : Indian troops are now once again sitting pretty in a militarily advantageous position at their Doka La outpost on the Sikkim border, having almost completed their withdrawal from the Doklam face-off site by Monday evening.
From the Doka La post, the Indian soldiers will continue to keep a hawk-eye on the Doklam bowl – which is Bhutanese territory but claimed by China – less than 500 meters away down the ridge slope.
“Our soldiers sit on the top, hold the ridge and can swiftly intervene, as they pro-actively did in mid-June, if the People’s Liberation Army once again tries to unilaterally change the status quo by constructing a road near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction,” said a source.
The defence establishment here believes it has unequivocally proved its point to China that it will not allow the PLA to extend its motorable track towards the Jampheri (Zomplri) Ridge, which is “militarily very sensitive” because it overlooks India’s vulnerable Siliguri corridor or the “Chicken’s Neck” area.
It was on June 16 that Indian soldiers had come down from Doka La to physically prevent Chinese troops, armed with heavy earth-moving equipment, from constructing the road in the Doklam area, which is disputed between Beijing and Thimphu.
Earlier, on June 5/6, Chinese troops had destroyed two of the old unmanned “self-help bunkers” constructed ahead of the watershed at Doklam by the Indian Army to strengthen its defences long ago.
Despite China’s belligerent rhetoric, which was backed by PLA moving at least three divisions (15,000 soldiers each) as well as armoured, artillery and air defence brigades towards southern Tibet, India quietly stood its ground without making jingoistic noises for over 70 days.
Apart from the 350 soldiers at the actual face-off site over 11,000-feet in altitude, India also operationally activated its three infantry mountain divisions as well as IAF airbases in the region. To underline its resolve, another 3,000 soldiers were moved forward by early-July to reinforce the over 6,000 soldiers already deployed in eastern and north-eastern Sikkim, as was then reported by TOI.
“It paid off. Neither China, nor India wanted war. We have no problems with China sending patrols to the area, like it has been doing for years. While Chinese troops frequently patrol till the Torsa Nala, they even go up till the Bhutanese Army’s Chela post once in three-four years,” said a source.
But what irked India this time was China’s attempt to extend the road towards the Jampheri Ridge and usurp the Doklam bowl to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan.
“India came to Bhutan’s aid after China tried to bully the small country into submission despite 24 rounds of talks on the disputed territories between them since the mid-1980s,” said the source.
“China should have also respected the agreement between the Indian and Chinese special representatives in 2012 that the tri-junction boundary points will be finalized in consultation with Bhutan,” he said.