Tense Doklam standoff ends India, China agree to withdraw troops

NEW DELHI/BEIJING: The 75-day-long tense standoff between India and China in Doklam ended on Monday with both sides agreeing to withdraw troops from the disputed region in the tri-junction with Bhutan, in a breakthrough ahead of next week’s BRICS summit in China that is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The exact contours of the deal between the two sides is not clear. While India maintained that both sides have agreed to withdraw their troops, a demand External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had made in Parliament last month, China claimed that the Indian troops have withdrawn to Indian territory and that its army will continue to patrol the area.
There was also no clarity on what happens to the road construction by China that was the trigger for the standoff that began on June 16 when Indian troops stopped a People’s Liberation Army contingent from building a road in Doklam.
Indian External Affairs Ministry broke the news on the development on Monday morning, which was shortly followed by the Chinese Foreign Office confirming the disengagement.
The External Affairs Ministry statement said, “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests”. “On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to, and is ongoing.”
Indian Army sources said that the process of “disengagement” of its troops had begun, with the Chinese side also withdrawing its soldiers. The withdrawal of Indian troops from the standoff point started around noon on Monday.
Around 350-400 Indian troops were there at the border point. India had refused to withdraw its soldiers unless there was a simultaneous withdrawal from the Chinese side as well.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry said that China is pleased over India’s withdrawal but stated that Chinese troops will “remain in the region” and exercise their “sovereignty over the region”.
Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Chinese border troops will “continue to patrol in Donglong”, which India refers to as Doklam, in the Sikkim sector. — IANS