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Lessons from Doklam: Not China, Not India, But Bhutan’s the Winner

Neither China nor India should claim “victory” as we witness the end of this unfortunate episode in their relations.

Updated
Opinion
3 min read
Lessons from Doklam: Not China, Not India, But Bhutan’s the Winner
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The most important takeaway is that conflict has been averted.

The firing of single shot could have had very difficult consequences. It would have shattered the status quo that both India and China have maintained along the border despite the extent of the differences between them.

The fact that this would have happened on the territory of a third country, Bhutan would have complicated matters further.

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India Creates New Playbook

Chinese assertiveness is seen everywhere across Asia these days. Resistance against Chinese territorial claims by the countries affected by such claims has had very few takers.

By dialing down the rhetoric and maintaining a sober, resolute and firm defense of her position, resisting Chinese threats, and conveying that she wanted to solve this crisis through diplomacy so that a peaceful outcome was achieved, India displayed maturity and commonsense. Also, she created a new playbook for others similarly affected in Asia to study carefully.

The harsh Chinese volleys of criticism and open threats against India were very unfortunate and unnecessary.

Big nations and aspiring superpowers like China can well afford to exercise more magnanimity and restraint in their diplomatic dealings. Such offensive rhetoric as we heard from the Chinese media and even the People’s Liberation Army takes away from the image of China.

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Too caught up to read? Listen to the story:

Victory is in Bhutan’s Name

Neither China nor India should claim “victory” as we witness the end of this unfortunate episode in their relations.

If there is a winner, it must be Bhutan. It has won the peace. That is how it should stay. 

It is in Bhutan’s interest to ensure that its claim to Doklam is well defended in talks with China. The status quo in this area should not be disturbed in accordance with past understandings.

The 3,488 km long border between India and China has a number of pockets where the two countries have differing interpretations of where the Line of Actual Control should be.

The need of the hour is to strengthen mutual understanding on the basis of the various agreements signed by the two countries since 1993 to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and promote confidence building so that for instance, situations of the sort witnessed at Panggong Lake in Ladakh a few days ago, or, of the Doklam variety, are not repeated.

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The relations between India and China are in definite need of repair after Doklam. The forthcoming BRICS Summit can provide an opportunity to begin that restoration process when the leaders of the two countries meet. Diplomatic and not military maneuvers must be the name of the game in this relationship.

The unresolved boundary dispute between the two countries has unleashed many difficulties in the past and can do so in the future also.

Bold political vision and a willingness to make reasonable, mutual adjustments so that a fair solution to this question is reached are needed.

A strong, political leadership as exists in both countries at present can provide that impulse and dynamic. This is the moment. The longer we wait, our future generations will pay the cost.

(Nirupama Menon Rao is a a former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to US and China. She can be reached at @NMenonRao. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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