After months of negotiations, the Indian government on Tuesday agreed to withdraw the border post at Doklam, the disputed territory of Sikkim, a key Chinese trading post, with a view to end the standoff with China over the area.
The decision came as the Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, made a rare public statement about the withdrawal.
“The Doklars are a symbol of our nation’s determination to stand up for the dignity of the nation and to fight for its sovereignty and interests,” Parrikars statement said.
Parrikari’s statement, in response to a question from an ANI journalist, was the first of several written responses that the Indian military has issued to the Chinese over the years, including a statement issued on February 12, 2009, that said it would not withdraw the Dokla, despite its “unwavering support” for the people of Sikka.
“Doklam is not a temporary stand-off,” the Indian statement said, and was a “continuing line of military cooperation with China”.
This statement has not been backed by any evidence.
In June, when the Chinese lodged a legal complaint against the Indian army over the Doka La dispute, Parrikara issued a statement saying that the army was “not in a position to comment on the matter”.
The Indian government has not responded to any questions about whether it intends to withdraw Doklang, or even whether it will maintain the Doks presence.
But there is a perception in Indian circles that the move will further fuel the insurgency in Sikkas side.
In recent weeks, the military has stepped up the pressure on the Chinese government by announcing a number of unilateral military moves, including the creation of a new joint patrol battalion, an unprecedented move that is likely to heighten the sense of insecurity and resentment among Sikkis.
In addition, the army is also seeking to extend its control over the border areas along the Line of Actual Control, an area where both the Chinese and Indian armies are located.
The new deployment of the patrol battalion is likely not a response to China’s protestations that the DOKL is a “legitimate” border post and not a Chinese territory.
Instead, it may be seen as a way to keep Sikkims border with China, at least in the short-term, in place, to prevent further escalation of tensions.
The military statement came after a three-day visit by Indian Defence Minister RK Singh to China, a visit that also saw Parrikaries meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“It’s not the time to be talking about Dokal,” Parris said, after meeting with Xi.
“What I will say is that we are talking about a situation that is not an obstacle to India-China relations and that is a normal state of affairs.”
The two leaders also discussed the ongoing Kashmir dispute.
“We agreed to continue the dialogue in the framework of the peace process and the ceasefire,” Singh said, adding that the two sides have also discussed a number points.
“They will not go into the details,” he added.
Parris, who was in Beijing to participate in a two-day China-India strategic summit, said he and Xi had discussed the situation in Kashmir.
“He agreed to take up the issues of the two states of Jammu and Kashmir and also discussed India-Pakistan border issues,” Parras statement said of Xi.
China has long been suspicious of the Indian claim to Doklah, claiming the area as part of its own territory.
“As a result of this dispute, India and Pakistan have been pursuing a policy of destabilising and dividing the country,” Parries statement said after Xi and Singh held talks in Beijing.
The Indian army statement is likely in response, at some stage, to an Indian request for help in securing Doklad.
“If China and India were to meet face-to-face and reach an understanding, we would like to see it through, and I hope that the bilateral dialogue will lead to a conclusion on the Doki-Dokla issue,” Parricks spokesperson said.
The Defence Ministry also released a statement on Tuesday evening saying that “the Doklas presence will remain in place” and that it will “continue to monitor developments in the area.”
Parrikaris statement on Doklatans presence came after it emerged that an Indian soldier had been detained on the Pakistan border and was being interrogated by Pakistani authorities.
A source close to the Indian defence ministry said that a number, including two officers, were detained at the border and that they had not been informed about the reasons for their detention.
“At this stage, there is no information to suggest that the Indians have any intention to take any action that might complicate the Doko-Doko border dispute,” the source said.
“There is a need for both sides to refrain from any action or activity that might lead to an escalation of the conflict,” the official added.
Sikkimes security forces and the