Apply Doklam’s lesson to relations with Pakistan

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Three months after it began, the Doklam stand off is over. On Monday, the foreign ministry issued a statement that India  had reached an understanding with China. Though the statement suggested that both sides had agreed to pull back, the Chinese foreign ministry said only that Indian troops were withdrawing. In fact on Tuesday China said that India should draw lessons from Doklam stand-off and abide by established treaties and the basic principles of international law. This statement hardly indicates that the withdrawal was mutual as has been the dominant reading of the situation in India. In fact, even the MEA statement did not use the word mutual for the “expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site”. In fact, the statement doesn’t even say anything about the Chinese road construction along the border   which in the first place had sparked the stand-off. Indian Army had crossed over to stop the construction.

 

Has China now agreed to India’s stipulation to halt the work on the road? The MEA statement makes no mention of it. China, on the other hand, has indicated that the project is on.  According to China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the country would “make an overall assessment of the weather conditions and all related factors, and according to the actual circumstances complete construction plans. For India, the road is a security threat as it would give Beijing access to Siliguri corridor that connects India to its northeastern states. But if Chinese statements are to be believed, New Delhi has not achieved its objective. A critical examination of the statements emanating from the two capitals shows New Delhi’s pull back subdued and conciliatory and those from Beijing adamant and condescending.  Of course, we can hardly separate  spin from the statements of  the two countries and their attendant media discourses. But the truth remains that all through the stand-off, India has maintained a strict low-profile. So has the otherwise the raucous media which normally goes into frenzy when tension builds with the neighbour Pakistan. But during the Doklam confrontation, the media maintained a studied silence, even as Chinese media went berserk, issuing daily threats to New Delhi and bragging about China’s disproportionate economic and military superiority.

 

On the other hand, China enhanced its deployments across the border. But just when the prospect of a military confrontation looked too serious to be ignored, the two countries reached an understanding. The stand-off has ended peacefully and this should be an example for India and Pakistan to emulate too. Unlike the one between India and China, the confrontations between India and Pakistan have been violent. The Line of Control and International Border between the two countries in J&K have been a scene of recurrent clashes which have resulted in bloodshed. The 2003 LoC ceasefire agreement is in tatters. The two countries are teetering on the brink of a major military confrontation. It is time that the two countries follow the pattern of New Delhi-Beijing engagement and try and resolve issues incrementally, beginning with the frequent borders skirmishes. 

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