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China halted road building to end India border standoff, say analysts

29 August 2017 No Comment

by Sarah Zheng, Liu Zhen & Kristin Huang in South China Morning Post, Aug 29, 2017
China has put on hold building work in a disputed area of its border with India as part of an agreement to end the two-month military stand-off with its neighbour, but will maintain patrols in the area, according to Chinese diplomatic analysts.
The two nations have agreed to withdraw troops from an area on the Doklam plateau at the centre of the dispute, India’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
The stand-off was sparked in June when China began building a road in a disputed area high in the Himalayas close to Bhutan.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Indian troops were withdrawing and its troops would continue to patrol and garrison the area.
“In light of the changed situation, the Chinese side will make necessary adjustments and deployment according to the situation at the scene,” the ministry said.
China and India did not state if road construction in the area had been halted, but Chinese analysts said they believed China would hold off on the building work for now, in exchange for the withdrawal of troops.
Wang Dehua, the head of South Asia studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said negotiations would have required give-and-take from both sides.
“Without give and take, there can be no solution,” he said. “I don’t think China would pull out their troops from the region, but it would be fine if [Beijing] just stepped back a bit and put the road construction on hold for a while.”
Further evidence of a halt to Chinese building work in the area came from The Times of India.
The paper reported on Tuesday that as Indian troops withdrew from their post at Doklam, Chinese soldiers and road building equipment were also pulled back from the area.
The report said the negotiations to end the standoff were first conducted during a visit to China by India’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, in July. Doval held talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
Song Junying, an Asian affairs expert at the China Institute of International Studies, said the two countries probably offered each other security guarantees as part of the negotiations.
“China and India may have exchanged views on the seriousness of a potential conflict, the spillover effects and their respective strategic aims, which would decrease Beijing and New Delhi’s perceptions of the threats from the other side and increase mutual trust,” he said.
Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College London, said India’s main aim in talks was to restore the status quo on the border region.
“In that sense, India got what it wanted,” Pant said. “[The situation] before the Chinese decision to build the roads was achieved, so therefore India would [disengage its troops].”
Observers also said the end of the standoff was apparently timed to ease tensions ahead of a high-profile BRICS nation summit next week in China ,which India is to attend. The others BRICS nations are Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
Analysts said China did not want the border dispute to overshadow the event. The agreement with India takes the heat off – for now, according to analysts.
James Char, an associate research fellow with the China programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said: “Clearly, they have prioritised strategic considerations over security disputes. Speaking together with one voice will lend legitimacy to their developmental needs.”
Pant said India and China have mutual economic interests and both have prioritised pursuing long-term cooperation with the other BRICS nations.
Without ratcheting down the border tensions, China and India would have failed to make any progress at the summit, he said.
The withdrawal of troops was a a win-win for both countries, according to Sun Shihai, a South Asia expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“A disengagement is [in both parties’] national interests,” he said. “A lengthy confrontation or an escalated conflict would be truly harmful.”
Sudheendra Kulkarni, an ex-aide to India’s former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, welcomed news of the troop withdrawals. Both sides need to remain sensitive to each other’s core security concerns, he said. “There is too much at stake between India and China for them to have such crises.”http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2108686/china-halted-road-building-end-india-border-standoff

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