Thoughts on Recent Doklam Standoff – I
by Harpreet on 16 Aug 2017 5 Comments

The current world order is a result of two devastating world wars in which the stakeholders threw in all that they had in terms of men and material. Each of these wars was a mighty bloody affair. And then came the spoils which the victors claimed for themselves, and their lackeys, be it permanent seats at the UNSC, P-5 Status, NSG, IMF, the works. Even a break-up of the Soviet Union wasn’t sufficient to change this world order, though it ‘hobbled’ a bit for sure.


What is happening now is the rise of China, a possible catalyst for recalibration of the current world order. I call it a recalibration ‘coz China is already at the high table of the UNSC / P-5 / NSG etc. This recalibration involves displacement of the West as the foremost military as well as economic power in the world. Utterances about G-2 notwithstanding, the Middle Kingdom aims to stand alone with the rest of the world under its thumb. It is here that geography might end up putting a spanner in the People’s Republic of China’s works. More specifically, the neighbourhood it gave to itself after the invasion of Tibet soon after formation of the PRC.


Now with India and China together ascendant at the same time after a long while, along with a shared boundary too, friction is bound to occur as both jostle for the same geopolitical space, at least in the neighbourhood for the time being, a neighbourhood that extends from Japan to Iran and Afghanistan.


Given the history of 1962 as also 1967 and 1986, mutual trust is at a premium. Then there is the question of gap in relative military capabilities, which India is working hard to bridge. Recently cleared acquisitions will start arriving in the next couple of years – Rafale, LCA, Dhanush, Vikrant and the works. The point is, the window for ‘Showing India its Place’ once again, is closing rapidly. A conscription-based PLA army which turns over the bulk of its troops every 3-4 years versus a well-bloodied, all-volunteer Indian Army with new acquisitions coming online soon, will be an interesting’ match to witness.


That Doklam is strategically important enough to be denied to the PLA is not in doubt. But for all the hoopla around it, Chinese access to Doklam is still via the Chumbi Valley that only narrows down close to Doklam. Without going into tactical aspects here, what I personally feel is that Doklam might just have been a ‘probe’ to gauge Indian reactions, pending further course of action. This time round, our folks handled the situation fantastically, both at political as well as military levels.


But it hasn’t played out fully as yet, despite going away from media glare for the time being. In any case, given the current monsoon season, nothing much could have been done militarily by either side. Let the monsoons finish, say from September onwards, before we can safely say that the current stand-off is truly over. Weather does play a big role out here – 1962 happened in October-November, 1967 in August-October and 1986 again in the same time period. Keep the gunpowder dry till then.


Alternatively, this Doklam thing could merely be a diversionary tactic, with real intentions lying elsewhere, say in Mana, Badrinath, Kedarnath and thereabouts. The point is, if the PRC really wants to ensure its rise WITHOUT India challenging it, a visible military engagement with a visible victory is essential for the PLA. And the window for that, if not already closed, is closing rapidly.


The same goes for us, as we look for a seat at the high table of the UNSC, NSG etc. the bottom-line is that no one will just give it to you if you are a good boy... They earned it after catastrophic events - world wars, nukes, Cold War, etc.


To think that they will just make space for India at the table is being utopian. To this effect, a military clash with China, ending on terms favourable to us, may not be a very bad idea. The PRC knows too!


(To be continued…)




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