Do 1,800 Chinese Troops in Doklam Indicate a Permanent Presence?

About 1,800 Chinese troops have established a “virtually permanent presence” in Doklam, a Times of India report said

Updated
India
3 min read
The Doklam Standoff between India and China ended on 28 August.  
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About 1,600-1,800 Chinese troops have established a “virtually permanent presence” in the Doklam region of the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction, a report by Times of India (TOI) said.

The report suggests the possibility of the troops getting stationed in the region permanently, considering that they have built two helipads, upgraded the different roads and established several pre-fabricated huts, shelters and stores in an attempt to withstand the extreme cold of the winter.

Sources told TOI that while India had been successful in not letting China extend its road in the region, due to the decision of both countries to call off their troops in August, it did however lead to the “almost permanent” positioning of the People’s Liberation Army in the region.

Another indication of the permanent presence of the Chinese troops in Doklam arises from the fact that earlier they would only visit the area twice a year, between April-May and October-November, so they could lay their claim to the area before returning back to China. However, after the Doklam stand-off that took place earlier this year, they have remained put, adds TOI.

Now, after the 73-day eyeball-to-eyeball troop confrontation at Doklam between India and China ended on August 28, the PLA troops have stayed put in what we consider to be Bhutanese territory for the first time this winter. But the status quo prevails at the earlier face-off site.
An unnamed source to TOI

According to Business Standard, China’s presence in the Doklam seems to make good on the Chinese military’s hint made on 1 December that they would maintain a “sizeable presence” in the Doklam region during winter, in order to reassert their claim over it.

“Based on this principle we will decide on the deployment of troops on our own,” Col Wu Qian, spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Defence had said when asked about the Chinese presence in the Doklam region post the stand-off, reports Business Standard. His claim, the report states, was based on the fact that they considered Doklam to be “Chinese territory”.

The Chinese presence in Doklam also give weight to General Bipin Rawat’s warning that China would continue in its efforts “to nibble away disputed territories through salami slicing, muscle-flexing and other measures”, reports Business Standard.

The news of the possibly permanent presence of Chinese troops in Doklam coincides with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India, for the Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers' meeting that is to be held in Delhi. Addressing the subject of tensions between the countries post the Doklam standoff, he said that India and China's strategic interests “outweigh partial frictions and handling of the Doklam standoff through diplomatic means reflects the importance of bilateral ties”, reports PTI.

We have handled the issue of cross-border incursions by the Indian border troops into China’s Donglang (Doklam) area through diplomatic measures.
Wang Yi, as reported by PTI

He added that the ‘diplomatic’ way by which India withdrew their forces from the Doklam region, demonstrated “sincerity and responsibility of maintaining regional peace and stability”, reports PTI.

As long as China and India continue to engage in in-depth strategic communication and promptly dispel strategic misgivings...there will be a prospect of the dragon and the elephant dancing together with 1 + 1 = 11 outlook.
Wang Yi, as reported by PTI

Wang is also the first top Chinese official to visit India since the Doklam standoff, with Chinese officials reportedly hoping that his visit will help both sides step out from the shadow of the Doklam standoff, the report adds.

(With inputs from PTI, Times of India and Business Standard)

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