New Delhi (August 28, 2017): India and China have agreed to an “expeditious disengagement” of troops at a disputed border area where their soldiers have been locked in stand-off for more than two months, the South Asian nation’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
India said both sides are moving to withdraw their troops from the remote Doklam Plateau, a region that both China and Bhutan claim. Beijing said it would continue to patrol the area, but agreed that given today’s developments, China will make “necessary adjustments and deployments according to the changes”.
The decision comes ahead of a summit of the BRICS nations – a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa – in China early next month, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.
The standoff began in mid-June after Chinese troops started building a road on the Doklam plateau. Indian soldiers rushed to stop that, triggering the worst military tension in decades with China.
Announcing a breakthrough this morning, India said the truce was reached by diplomatic talks. “On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going,” said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.
After that, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “At 1430 or so on August 28, India withdrew its personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the border line.” While stating that the Chinese army’s patrols in Doklam will continue, she said China would make “necessary adjustments and deployments according to the changes,” without elaborating what the adjustments would be.
The breakthrough comes ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to China in a few weeks for a summit of the BRICS group of nations. Indian sources said that soldiers have begun withdrawing, but the exercise will not be completed today.
Chinese and Indian troops have been confronting each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land linking India and its remote northeastern regions.
New Delhi says the dispute erupted after India objected to the Chinese building a road through the mountainous area.
Small incursions and troop stand-offs are common along other parts of the contested 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, but the recent impasse was marked by its length and the failure of talks to resolve the dispute, raising fears of a wider escalation as the two Asian giants compete for influence.
In June, Indian soldiers crossed the Sikkim border to stop China from constructing a road on the Doklam Plateau. Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China and asked India to intervene. Delhi also stressed that it had forewarned China that the road would be seen as a serious security concern because of the access it opens up to the narrow sliver of land called the “Chicken’s Neck” that links India to its northeastern states.
China retorted that it had every right to build a road in a region that is part of its territory.
Chinese media and spokespersons repeatedly warned of military escalation, a possible “countdown to war” and of a repeat of India’s humiliating defeat by China in 1962.
Then, two weeks ago, Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed at the picturesque Pangong Lake in Ladakh in the Western Himalayas.