After nearly three months of a tense standoff between troops of India and China at Doklam near Sikkim border, India has announced ‘expeditious disengagement of border personnel’, the Ministry of External Affairs 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 the face-off site in Doklam has been agreed-to and is ongoing,” the MEA said in a press statement posted on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said India has pulled back its border personnel and equipment from Doklam.
“China has confirmed that Indian troops and equipment have all withdrawn to the Indian side of the border area in Doklam on Monday afternoon. China will continue to exercise its territorial sovereignty in accordance with historical conventions,” Chunying said at Monday’s daily regular press conference.
“The Chinese government highly values its friendly relationship with India. We hope India can fulfill the historic agreement on the border and safeguard the stability of the border area with China,” Hua added.
The agreement to disengage in Doklam, claimed by China as its own territory, comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China for the BRICS summit. The summit will take place between September 3-5 in Xiamen in China in which PM Modi could attend. He had earlier met Chinese premier Xi Jinping in an informal BRICS discussion on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg even as the standoff was going on.
The standoff had begun in June when Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops began constructing a concrete road in Doklam in Bhutanese territory. The Doklam plateau overlooks the strategic Chumbi Valley. The Indian troops promptly halted the construction work, forming a human chain, calling it a change in ‘status-quo’ with serious security implications for India.
India believes that the Chinese have an eye on the Jampheri ridge, which is of utmost military importance for India. Beijing’s strategic equities in the Doklam plateau have multiplied in recent years, with the upgrading of the road from Lhasa to Yadong, which allows the 500-km journey to be made in just seven hours. The road, which passes through Bhutan’s territory, has significantly enhanced China’s military logistics in the region, which faces out on to India’s defences in the so-called Chicken’s Neck, through which all roads to the North-East must pass.
Despite repeated threats by the Chinese media and strident positions taken by official Chinese diplomats, India maintained that it will defuse the crisis through official diplomatic channels. At the same time, China asked India to withdraw its troops for any meaningful dialogue to take place. Nearly 350 Indian soldiers have been standing face-to-face with 300 PLA soldiers in the area since June.