What now at Sikkim trijunction?

Indian and Chinese troops have stood face-to-face on the Dolam plateau for nearly a month now. Neither side has seemed willing to back off. Where can things go from here? There are six possible scenarios.

Written by Sushant Singh | Updated: July 14, 2017 11:00 am
sikkim standoff, india china standoff, dolam standoff, india-china-bhutan border, sikkim trijunction, indo-china border dispute, indian soldiers, chinese soldiers At a press conference on June 29, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang released these labelled pictures, which he said “clearly show that the Indian soldiers and vehicles have overstepped the crest which is defined as the boundary and entered Chinese territory”.

The standoff began on June 16, when Indian soldiers moved on to the Dolam plateau to prevent Chinese soldiers from constructing a road through the area. This area, adjacent to the trijunction of the borders of India, China and Bhutan, is strategically important for India. Over 300 Indian soldiers have pitched tents opposite the slightly smaller Chinese military unit, with some 100-150 metres separating the two armies. What does the future hold?

Scenario 1: India withdraws, China builds the road

This is what the Chinese have been demanding aggressively. Their argument is that Indian soldiers are in Chinese territory — the Indians contend that it is Bhutanese territory — and should withdraw from the area before any talks take place. But having spent almost four weeks in the area, and realising the threat the Chinese road will pose to the Jampheri Ridge, there is little chance that India will withdraw unilaterally. There are no problems of logistics, supply chains or turnover of soldiers for India, which can force it to back off. A unilateral withdrawal will also mean a loss of face for New Delhi.

Unlikely.

Scenario 2: China withdraws unilaterally, India stays

This is the Indian demand — that China must stop building the road and withdraw from the area unilaterally. But the Chinese have turned up the rhetoric, and do not appear keen to walk away now. That they are only two kilometres short of Jampheri Ridge, and already south of the Batang La pass, which India claims is the trijunction of borders, seems to have emboldened them. In any case, if the Chinese were to withdraw unilaterally, there would no reason for India to stay on in Bhutanese territory. But then, a unilateral withdrawal would mean a loss of face for China now.

Unlikely.

Scenario 3: Neither side withdraws, stalemate continues

Both armies could choose to stay on until something gives. This means status quo — with a prolonged stalemate of the kind that happened in 1987, when the two sides were face to face for several months in the Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh. But the deployment then was over a large frontage — and India now has much better infrastructure and resources to sustain a small body of troops for a long time on Dolam plateau. The Chinese could do the same — and assuming Bhutan does not change its stance, the two sides could be in for a long haul.

Possible.

Scenario 4: Diplomacy works, both sides withdraw

India and China haven’t fired a shot on their border for half a decade, and most standoffs have been resolved by diplomatic means. This is how the Chumar incursion was resolved in 2014, as was the Depsang incident in 2013. However, in neither of those cases had the two sides resorted to rhetoric of the kind that is being heard now — nor did the Chinese lay down preconditions for talks as they have now. While this does make it difficult for both sides to back off now, creative diplomacy can find answers to even the most vexed of problems.

Likely.

Scenario 5: Escalation by China, a limited conflict

India’s limited aim is to prevent the Chinese from building the road to the Jampheri Ridge, and it has no reason to escalate the conflict. Even status quo achieves India’s goal; for China, however, the goal could be different. But an escalation by the Chinese on the Dolam plateau itself would be suicidal, as Indian forces dominate that area. It is for this reason that the Chinese forces have not even tried to resume road construction after the Indians stopped them. However, the Chinese could, in theory, escalate in some other area, i.e., initiate a limited conflict, perhaps in Ladakh or the Northeast. But as Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said, 2017 is not 1962. The Chinese know that as well.

Less likely.

Scenario 6: A full-fledged war

One thing: nuclear weapons.

Unlikely.

sushant.singh@expressindia.com

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  1. R
    Rajveer Singh
    Jul 16, 2017 at 11:29 pm
    India is weak as it's Bhutan territory why India is talking for others.china will take the area by hook or by crook
    Reply
    1. M
      Maheswar Deka
      Jul 16, 2017 at 5:24 pm
      Both sides should withdraw and the disputed area be left as no man' lands as long as the disputes are sorted out.
      Reply
      1. K
        K.S.Subramanian
        Jul 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm
        Every self respecting Indian would like to go for war with Pakistan and China even if in the process he has to lose his life. Honour MATTERS.
        Reply
        1. A
          Anamika Tarjani
          Jul 15, 2017 at 9:20 am
          India must not blink. We are no less.
          Reply
          1. M
            Maozedong
            Jul 15, 2017 at 7:34 am
            那里住的都是黄种人,印度黑鬼滚回非洲去
            Reply
            1. R
              Rajat
              Jul 14, 2017 at 11:39 pm
              Final Scenario 7 - Free Tibet all issues finishes pass un resolution immediately same way Bangladesh created time to free Tibet. China can't claim every thing.
              Reply
              1. A
                asif
                Jul 15, 2017 at 1:00 am
                you Indian dog first look at your home,first free khalistan,Nagaland, and than ask other.kashmir is not your part that no need to talk on it.
                Reply
                1. M
                  mark
                  Jul 15, 2017 at 3:13 am
                  that was for Rajat. As for people treating others by dog name, either they are followers of Bhairav (a rare occurence nowadays) or they're plain fools, they're welcome to go to Nagaland (a fantastic place in summertime) but, mind, they possibly eat pork there ...
                2. M
                  mark
                  Jul 15, 2017 at 3:07 am
                  You're going to free it by yourself? India is not even a permanent member of SC. As for Sikkim border, sorry, on one side, both Lhasa and Imperial China were part of agreement. Other side, Sikkim was then officialy a kingdom, under British supervision. So if China can't claim everything, India has maybe even less to claim . Mighty Himalayas are terrible place, cold, windy, empty, dreary, icy, why are Indians and Chinese fighting for it?
                  Reply
                3. A
                  akash ali
                  Jul 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm
                  Cummunist mind,expansionist mind.
                  Reply
                  1. V
                    Vicktor
                    Jul 14, 2017 at 11:10 am
                    It's so strange that it's the matter of India, China,Bhutan and that the 3 of them can settle it . But why some readers are even visiting this and even commenting. This brings to 2 points. 1) those visiting here have accepted that it was a b ered decision to make a nation on religious basis and how many times they will chant "Pakistan tujhe am" they will always be India in their heart and soul. 2) or they are simply kissers and lickers. No GDP, No space research, No world class hospital and doctors, No world class business man,No country give a to your PM or military general. On what basis Pakis are claiming they have the right to live on planet Earth. Simply kick them out.
                    Reply
                    1. G
                      gurdeep jolly
                      Jul 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm
                      If you are so wise why you dont solve your ciuntry problems with nabours?
                      Reply
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