A recently retired Army officer, who has served on the Sikkim border with China, said he too believed that the timing of the Chinese action, not just in provoking a border standoff but to send back Kailash Mansarovar yatra pilgrims, was a diplomatic message to coincide with Mr. Modi's U.S. visit. The standoff must also be seen against recent diplomatic unease between the two sides, including India's stand on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is expected to visit Sikkim to review the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops, even as military officers said such standoffs were not unprecedented.
Reliable sources said Indian troops objected to Chinese soldiers carrying out construction of a road stretch through the disputed Dolam Plateau (Donglang or Doklam), triggering the confrontation. In response, Chinese authorities denied entry to Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims via the Nathua La pass.
Former Army Chief Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury told The Hindu that such incidents were not new and they date back to 1967 when the first such clash took place at Nathu La between troops of the two nations.
“This is a flashpoint. These take place from time to time,” he said. However, he pointed out, the question is why such incidents are taking place in such frequency. “Is it because our Prime Minister is perceived to be too close to the U.S. or is it to assist its best ally Pakistan? Or is it a combination of all these factors plus history. Add to that is the fact they have turned the pilgrims away.”
‘Keeping India engaged’
A recently retired Army officer, who has served on the Sikkim border with China, said he too believed that the timing of the Chinese action, not just in provoking a border standoff but to send back Kailash Mansarovar yatra pilgrims, was a diplomatic message to coincide with Mr. Modi’s U.S. visit.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, said these incidents were a continuum of maintaining stability at a strategic level while “keeping India engaged at the tactical level through political, diplomatic and military means.” He said the standoff would take sometime but would be resolved.
“It could be said to be Chinese manifestation of the choices India has made in the recent past,” he said in the context of the recent disputes between the two countries and the timing of the incident.
Sources in the Army said the standoff at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction was not unprecedented.
One officer who had served there said, “It is almost an annual affair.”
“The Chinese believe that the Dolam Plateau belongs to them, and have been constructing a road through the disputed area to Bhutan for a long time,” he pointed out.
And the standoff must also be seen against recent diplomatic unease between the two sides, including India’s stand on the Belt and Road Initiative.