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Home / World News / Doklam standoff: NSA Doval in Beijing amid PLA unease over Indian ‘trespass’

Doklam standoff: NSA Doval in Beijing amid PLA unease over Indian ‘trespass’

India’s NSA Ajit Doval landed in Beijing on Wednesday to attend a BRICS security summit and is scheduled to meet China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday.

world Updated: Jul 28, 2017 00:47 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
PLA officers on the Chinese side of the international border at Nathula Pass along the border with of Sikkim.
PLA officers on the Chinese side of the international border at Nathula Pass along the border with of Sikkim.(AP file photo)

India’s national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval might not have much room to maneuvre when, and if, he sits down with Chinese officials on Thursday or Friday to start a conversation to resolve the military stand-off near the Sikkim border.

Doval landed in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon to attend a BRICS security summit and is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping on Friday along with his NSA counterparts from the BRICS countries, including Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.

But the focus will be on whether Doval’s separate meetings with Chinese officials, including state councilor Yang Jiechi, will be able to resolve – or at least begin to ease -- the Donglang (Doklam) standoff, which is now into its second month.

What is likely to complicate the situation further is the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) 90th anniversary on August 1.

A Chinese academic indicated that there is unease and anger within the PLA hierarchy about allowing “foreign troops” on Chinese soil even as the world’s largest armed forces gather to mark their raising day.

Donglang is under China’s control but claimed by Bhutan. Beijing has repeatedly said it belonged to China from “ancient times”.

According to reports, President Xi Jinping – the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPEC) and the chairperson of the Central Military Commission -- will observe the war games at Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base, 400km northwest of Beijing in Inner Mongolia, on August 1.

The PLA will certainly not be comfortable with the message that will go out if “trespassing” Indian troops continue to be present in Donglang while Xi -- the all-powerful Communist party general secretary -- is observing PLA’s wargames on its birthday.

“It’s easier to shake a mountain than the PLA,” Wu Qian, spokesperson for the ministry of national defence (MoD), said Monday.

Referring to Wu’s comments, the country’s official news agency, Xinhua, said, “...these words illustrated China’s unwavering resolution to build a stronger army and guard the country’s sovereignty”.

The Chinese academic indicated the possibility of a “disaster” if Indian troops don’t withdraw before the day.

Doval would have been aware of this when he arrived here.

It is one of the longest-running face-offs between the militaries of India and China in recent history – and the one in which Beijing has been most aggressive in decades.

The show of belligerence from China has so far comprised three main acts – strong statements from the ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) and the MoD, a constant salvo of hostile editorials and articles from state-controlled media outlets and the calibrated release of information, photos and videos of military exercises in and around the Tibet Autonomous Region

Doval seems to have little scope to maneuvre as Beijing has made it clear what it wants for the standoff to end: withdrawal of Indian troops.

So far, foreign minister, Wang Yi has been the highest ranking Chinese politician to have commented on the military impasse.

Wang told reporters in Bangkok earlier this week that the “problem was very straightforward”.

“...Even Indian officials publicly said that Chinese soldiers didn’t enter the Indian territory. In other words, Indian side admitted (crossing) into Chinese territory.”

Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said “the tension will be quickly reduced” once Indian troops pull out from Donglang.

“This time, China and its top leaders feel humiliated badly by India’s adventurism and invasion,” he said, adding, “How can China withdraw? It (the standoff) is in Chinese territory according to the 1890 treaty (signed between China’s Qing dynasty and British India).”

Doval’s visit is important in the run-up to the BRICS summit to be held in China’s Xiamen city in the first week of September, which will be attended by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

On Friday, the five heads of security delegations from the BRICS countries will formally meet to discuss on global governance, counter-terrorism, cyber security and energy security, international and regional hotspots, and national security and development.