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News Analysis |

India on Monday announced that it has decided to disengage its troops from the Doklam region where they were eyeball to eyeball with the Chinese military over the past two months. This brings to an end to a simmering crisis between two arch-rivals, which many believed had the makings of a full-scale war.

“In recent weeks, India and China maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam…we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests. On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is ongoing,” the external affairs ministry said in a short statement, without giving details of the disengagement.

Both militaries had vowed not to back down from the area; troops also pelted stones at each other earlier this month.

This comes days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at the BRICS summit alongside leaders from Brazil, Russia, and South Africa — in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen later this week.

Read more:India-China stand-off: Is war imminent?

The row began in mid-June when India said it opposed a Chinese attempt to extend a border road on the plateau. Both militaries had vowed not to back down from the area; troops also pelted stones at each other earlier this month.

The short statement of the MEA did not entail further details of the engagement. Nothing has been said about the road that China was extending through Doklam.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Chinese troops had verified on the ground that Indian personnel had withdrawn in the morning.

Read more:India’s China war circa 2017?

The short statement of the MEA did not entail further details of the engagement. Nothing has been said about the road that China was extending through Doklam. It is difficult to read much into Indian reaction on the engagement other than it being a sign of relief.

The plateau, which lies at a junction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, is disputed between Beijing and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim over it.

However, China looks confident and claims that it has “forced transgressors” back.“On the afternoon on August 28, India has pulled back all trespassing personnel and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary. Chinese personnel on the ground have verified this.The Chinese side will continue to exercise its sovereignty and uphold territorial integrity in accordance with the historical conventions,” added foreign ministry spokeswoman.

This gives the impression that tensions can renew, should China continue with its road construction, something which ostensibly threatens the chicken’s neck.

It could have set the stage for China’s support of such kind to Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute with India; China had alluded to such a possibility last month.

What explains the thaw?

Analysts believe that Beijing’s attempts to expand BRICS by inducting countries sympathetic to its interests in the club has played a major role in the disengagement.China has invited the leaders of Thailand, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Egypt and several other nations to the Xiamen conference.

Read more:China rings alarm bells in India ; may militarily help Pakistan…

Another reason that explains this sudden detente is about setting a precedent of supporting an ally. This issue is primarily, one between China and Bhutan.Bhutan accused China of constructing a road inside its territory in “direct violation” of treaty obligations. India, owing to its cultural, diplomatic, and military ties with Bhutan came out in full support of Bhutan in what essentially was a tiff between Bhutan and China. It could have set the stage for China’s support of such kind to Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute with India; China had alluded to such a possibility last month.

Such a possibility could not have been ruled-out given the fact that Sino-Pak ties are not only strengthened because of OBOR and CPEC but because of the new South Asia strategy of the US which is based on pressurizing Pakistan, and giving India an increased role in Afghanistan.

Though this stand-off has ended, the Indo-Sino tensions will not taper-off; Afghanistan will become the new war theatre for both countries. India will be an important plank for the US in countering China’s influence in the region and beyond.

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