Chinese academics have cautiously welcomed the resolution of the two-month-long military standoff with India in the Donglang (Doklam) region near the Sikkim border, with one expert warning that the pullback of troops is just a temporary solution.
“It may be just a pause. I don’t think it is over,” a South Asian authority with a leading Chinese think-tank told Hindustan Times on Monday.
“There continues to be a big gap between the two countries on the issue,” the academic said, referring to the differences in perception of the strategic China-India-Bhutan tri-junction, close to where the standoff began in mid-June.
The disengagement of troops began on Monday, with no clarity yet on whether China will stop building a road in an area controlled by Beijing but claimed by Thimphu. Indian troops acted in coordination with the Bhutan government to block the construction of the road, with New Delhi saying it would alter the status quo.
“I don’t think China would have stopped building the road,” the academic said, indicating potential conflicts of similar nature in the future. According to the expert, the details of the agreement to defuse the situation would be the key to whether the impasse has actually been resolved.
The academic’s argument centred on the fact that India and China have a 3,500-km boundary dispute, divided into the western, middle and eastern sectors — Beijing’s argument in the current standoff was that India had “illegally trespassed” into Chinese territory because the Sikkim boundary had been decided in an 1890 treaty with the British Indian government.
Other experts were more optimistic.
“It is very good news,” said Long Xingchun, director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.
Wang Dehua from the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies told Hindustan Times: “This (resolution) has created a good atmosphere for both countries to resolve problems left over from history. Historical problems can be solved through dialogue.
“This will prevent China and India from confronting each other. The unity of the two nations will upgrade the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) mechanisms,” Wang said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, next week. India became a member of the China-led SCO in June, days before the standoff began.
Wang was among the many Chinese experts who had made aggressive statements against India during the standoff. His turn of opinion could be an indicator that the aggressive posturing by most experts would now be toned down.