As the standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers at Doklam nears eight weeks, diplomats of major European countries in New Delhi have adopted a “wait and watch” attitude while formulating the possible line that they can take in case of any escalation of the ongoing crisis.
Embassies of the three major European countries have been in constant touch with their governments, besides being briefed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on the developing situation. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomats told The Sunday Express that the Indian government has not requested them to issue a statement so far. They said in all their briefings, the MEA has conveyed that it is, diplomatically, fully in control of the situation. “Your MEA has not asked us to issue any statement so far, and we are still in a wait-and-watch mode. You see, besides the United States, no one else has spoken so far,” said a diplomat.
The European Union (EU) office in New Delhi, the diplomats said, had already conveyed its dilemma about taking a clear stance to the EU headquarters last month. These countries are also grappling with a similar dilemma and would not want to openly antagonise Beijing because of the economic ties they share with China. This is despite their acknowledgement that India has dealt with the situation with maturity while the Chinese have been belligerent.
“If a situation arises where we have to issue a public statement, it would have to be limited to asking both India and China to resolve it peacefully through dialogue. Anything beyond that would be difficult to say but it will finally depend on how the situation evolves,” a diplomat explained.
These European countries are also in touch with the Bhutanese embassy in Delhi. One of the ambassadors was, in fact, told by his Bhutanese counterpart last month that comparing Doklam crisis to Chinese attempts to alter the status quo in South China Sea was incorrect. The Bhutanese also conveyed their wish to see an early resolution to the crisis between their two biggest neighbours.
The Indian government has been silent about any comparisons of Doklam with Chinese moves in South China Sea, which was acknowledged by Admiral Harry B Harris, Commander of the US Pacific Command. “I think that’s a determination that India is going to have to make itself. I don’t want to speak for India, and I certainly don’t want to speculate on what might happen. I think this is a dispute, as it stands now, and that India and China must work out together. Hopefully peacefully,” he told PTI.
Harris’s area of responsibility includes both India and China. “I think that any time you have two great powers at odds across a common border, that’s an area of concern. Of course, it’s potentially dangerous,” he said.
Echoing the US State Department’s view that the US encourages the two countries to resolve their differences diplomatically, he added: “But I think that I would echo those sentiments of our own government leaders, America’s national leadership, that we encourage both India and China to engage in diplomacy, to help reduce these tensions.”
Harris is known for his outspoken anti-China views, and, during a public talk in New Delhi last year, he had hoped for joint patrols by the Indian and American Navies in Indo-Asia-Pacific waters. The offer was subsequently rejected by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. — With PTI inputs