New Delhi: The Doklam standoff which was resolved following mutual withdrawal of troops and not the removal of Indian troops unilaterally as demanded by China will have a profound impact on the geopolitical standing of both Delhi and Beijing.
New Delhi, which stood firm amid Beijing’s relentless provocation, sent out a message that it would stand by a friend (Bhutan) in terms of crisis and in the process strengthened its partnership with Asian countries, particularly in South and Southeast Asia.
This stand-off, closely watched by Asian countries, especially those who have territorial and maritime disputes with China, has shown that China’s expansionist ambition is not unstoppable, according to an expert well-versed with Beijing’s foreign policy.
While Japan openly supported India’s position in Doklam, Vietnam and other SE Asian nations, which have been victims of Beijing’s ambitions in South China Sea region, monitored the situation from close quarters. China’s neighbours may now feel encouraged to oppose Beijing’s unjustified territorial demands based on “historical narratives” as well as its aggression. Simultaneously, Beijing’s unilateral initiatives riding on its economic prowess may face some hurdles.
It is not just the immediate and extended neighbours of India and China that monitored the 75-day standoff closely following the warmongering which emanated from Beijing. India’s strategic restraint not only restored the status quo but also enabled to enhance Delhi’s profile in the comity of nations as an emerging power.
However, this will not be the last of Doklam as the Chinese will try again to complete what they began, according to observers. In this backdrop, India decided not to lower its guard in areas close to Doklam as Beijing can up the ante in Doklam or other sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in future. The Indian Army Chief last week warned that PLA could push an increase in transgressions along the 4,057-km-long LAC.
Nonetheless, India’s strong response in Doklam may work to Delhi’s favour as Beijing is known to appreciate powerful nations and blackmail weak ones.
It is also understood that Xi is still is grappling with internal dissent the reason why he is currently not in a position to consider hostilities.
It defies logic why China took this action to enter Doklam at a time when the 19th party Congress is round the corner. All party Congresses are important because changes are made in the top echelons of the party, and policies are set forth. The 19th party Congress, however, could be a landmark for Xi as he may try to seek extension beyond his second term in office after 2022. But, in the inner conclaves of the Congress, Xi may be questioned on many issues including the economic downturn, job losses, high price rise, closure of factories and small businesses, and unpaid wages.
The challenge could come from Liu Yunshan who is in charge of literary and propaganda work; hence the official media is under him. Earlier, he had tried to trap Xi in Hong Kong affairs leading to the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement campaigns.
A mechanism to avoid confrontations at tri-junction points makes eminent sense. It could also serve as a first-order option for diffusing tension between the two countries along the border. Settling disputes over the India-China boundary has been the goal of successive administrations, and New Delhi needs to figure out the way of resolving these outstanding issues in a manner that best serves the interests of the people and country. India must weigh on what is in national interest before it agrees to any proposal from Beijing.