Doklam standoff was the fourth such military face-off between India and China in the last four years along their borders, most of which is not clearly demarcated. The previous three were resolved in around three weeks while Doklam standoff continued for 70 days.
Doklam standoff was the second such incident since the Narendra Modi government was sworn in three years ago. The last standoff is understood to have been resolved after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping took personal interest and discussed the matter during latter’s visit to India in mid-September, 2014.
DAULAT BEG OLDI STANDOFF: APRIL, 2013
On April 15, 2013, around 40 People’s Liberation Army of China intruded into Indian territory for about 20 km in Daulat Beg Oldi (referred to as DBO in the defence establishment) area of Ladakh. Daulat Beg Oldi is is a historic camp site.
Daulat Beg Oldi is located on the ancient trade route passing through India and Tibet. It connects Ladakh to Tarim Basin in Xinjinang province in western China. Daulat Beg Oldi is an important military base of the Indian Army.
As the vast tract of the area is uninhabited, the Chinese troops set up their tents. When Indian patrol teams found the tents they objected to Chinese presence but the PLA soldiers refused to go. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police troops were ordered to march to the site.
An equal number of ITBP soldiers put up their tents some 300 metres from the Chinese troops. China kept saying that its troops were on its side of the border. The diplomatic channels were
opened up and negotiators talked at length.
Ministry of External Affairs officials got in touch with their Chinese counterparts. The then Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar visited the Chinese Foreign Office in Beijing twice. Finally a series of flag meetings between the local commanders from the two sides took place and after three weeks, Daulat Beg Oldi standoff was resolved.
CHUMAR STAND-OFF: APRIL – May 2013
Hours after Chinese troops pulled back from Daulat Beg Oldi, they came back in Chumar area in Ladakh. This time, the local patrol teams said that some 300 PLA troops were camping in Chumar. Chinese troops came there objecting to tin shed structure put by the Indian forces.
Chinese troops said that among the deal agreed during the last standoff, India had to dismantle the tin sheds which PLA termed as bunkers.
Chumar is the last village in Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir bordering Himachal Pradesh. Chumar has been a bone of contention between India and China with the latter claiming it to be its own territory. Chinese troops have been foraying into this border area with their helicopters almost every year. This time, their troops raised tents on the ground.
Hectic diplomatic parleys began once again. S Jaishankar again played a key role in restoring the status quo. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was scheduled to visit on May 19 to India that year. Diplomatic deliberations yielded results.
Chinese troops dismantled their tents on May 5 and then the Indian forces removed their tin sheds. Flag meetings were held on May 6 and the Chumar standoff was resolved in 21 days with China agreeing to Indian troops patrolling the area as before.
DEMCHOK STANDOFF: SEPTEMBER 2014
The last standoff before the Doklam incident happened in the backdrop of Xi Jiping’s India visit in September, 2014. Demchok standoff began on September 10, 2014 as Indian patrol teams discovered that the Chinese troops had deployed heavy machinery to build a road inside Indian territory
Objecting to it, Indian forces moved and camped opposite Chinese troops. Demchok is located in the same Chumar area. According to the 2011 census of India, Demchok has 31 households with a total population of 78 persons. But, China claims that Demchok is part of Autonomous Tibet Region.
The Demchok standoff continued even when Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping signed 12 deals on September 18. Modi is understood to have raised the matter with Jinping, who was reportedly embarrassed over the incursion by Chinese forces. Jinping, reportedly, assured Modi during the talks and that paved the way for resolution of Demchok standoff.
But, it took another week for the Chinese forces to withdraw, which took place after External Affairs Minister Suchm Swaraj met her counterpart in New York on September 26. Finally, after 20 days, PLA troops withdrew to their pre-September 10 positions.
DOKLAM STANDOFF: JUNE–AUGUST, 2017
Doklam standoff began on June 16 this year, some 10 days after the Bhutan objected to Chinese road construction in the disputed area. Doklam plateau is a disputed area between Bhutan and China. The two countries have held 24 rounds of talks for finding a resolution to border disputes in three pockets including Doklam.
After Bhutan requested the Indian Army, the troops reached the site of road construction and stopped the Chinese activity. This led to soldiers jostling with each other without using arms. They were seen pushing each other in a widely circulated video. Soon, the troops from both the sides took their positions merely 150 metres from each other.
While China kept demanding that India must withdraw the troops unconditionally and acknowledge Chinese sovereignty over Doklam, MEA officials launched diplomatic efforts to prevent escalation of the standoff. High level contacts were also established with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval holding a meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jiping during the former’s Beijing visit in July.
With international support growing in India’s favour and BRICS summit approaching fast, Chinese side agreed to resolve the standoff. Both sides agreed to disengage by pulling out troops. China also agreed to hold road construction, at least, for the time being.
Finally, after 70 days of eyeball encounter, Indian and Chinese troops returned to their pre-June 16 positions and Doklam standoff ended without escalating into a military confrontation which China threatened several times during the period of face-off.