Doka La border standoff: How Indian, Chinese newspapers reacted to the 'expeditious disengagement'

On Monday, the external affairs ministry released a statement saying that both India and China had agreed to an 'expeditious disengagement' at Doka La.

According to the statement: "In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doka La. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests. On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the faceoff site at Doka La has been agreed to and is ongoing."

Representational image.AFP

Representational image.AFP

Some TV channels celebrated "victory" for the Narendra Modi regime, others compared it to a carefully staged face-saver.

China, for its part, remained cagey on its future Doka La plans. Including the bit about building a road, which had sparked off the entire standoff.

It merely stated it would "make adjustments" as per the situation on the ground.

The reaction in Indian newspapers was evenhanded.

An editorial in The Indian Express praised the decision from both sides, stating that wiser heads in Delhi and Beijing had prevailed and praised the officials who'd helped defuse the standoff.

"Forget the quibbling on the divergence between the statements issued on Monday by the two foreign offices announcing de-escalation. Ignore, too, the speculation on who won what in the crisis. It has always been clear that there would be no winners from the escalation in Doklam that would have made the 1962 border war between Delhi and Beijing appear to be a minor skirmish," the editorial stated.

"The massive growth in the military capabilities of the two nations over the last six decades should leave no one in doubt on the enormous costs of a military conflict between India and China."

The editorial also reminded readers about the massive military expansion of both India and China's armed forces and warned that war between India and China could lead to an enormous cost for all involved.

The Hindu welcomed the fact that diplomacy had ultimately prevailed over the past 10 weeks of harsh rhetoric.

"The measured tone of the statement from New Delhi, referring to the “expeditious disengagement of border personnel” as part of the understanding between the two countries, shows that the government’s policy of pursuing diplomatic measures in the face of China’s angry rhetoric was wise," an editorial stated.

The editorial also praised China's statement, saying it gives Beijing enough room to end the faceoff peacefully, noted that each side had taken into account the others' constraints and essentially, agreed to disagree. It also noted that both governments had taken into consideration the wishes of the Bhutanese government, which wished for an early end to the conflict before winter set in.

"One hopes the decision on Doka La, which comes a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to go to China, will guide the bilateral spirit beyond the 3-5 September BRICS summit to be held in Xiamen," the editorial stated.

Across the border, the tone of the Chinese media took just this side of smug and condescending.

Chinese news agency Xinhua, in an editorial, stated unequivocally that India had pulled back its personnel and equipment from Doka La on Monday and ended the military standoff between the two countries that was sparked by India's illegal incursion. It added that India had made the correct choice in choosing to abide by international law.

"Doka La area is undisputed Chinese territory with a clear history and legal basis. The Indian military trespass grossly encroached on China's territorial sovereignty, and trampled on the fundamental principles of international law and basic norms governing international relations," it stated.

It added that China had ably demonstrated its determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and said Chinese troops had taken countermeasures.

"As India's gambit comes to an end, China will continue to patrol the Doka La area and safeguard territorial integrity, as approved by border agreements. It is expected that India will continue its correct attitude and to meet China halfway to put China-India ties on a healthy track," it added.

China's state-run Global Times struck a similar tone, saying that China confirmed that India had withdrawn its troops from Doka La and that China would continue to exercise its sovereignty in the area.

The Global Times said that China had used a series of actions, including diplomatic engagement and military drills, to pressure India and eventually gained the result with India's withdrawal.

"Without tough signals and diplomatic efforts for peace from China, the standoff would not have ended like this. We are glad to see India correct its mistake before the upcoming BRICS summit and safeguard the stability of the region with us," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

"India's behaviour was absolutely illegal and excuses, like Bhutan's request and China's road construction, that it used to legitimise its behaviour have proven ineffective as well. That's why it chose to withdraw at this moment, and it was the only option for India," Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

As the two countries prepare for the BRICS summit in September, it remains to be seen if this standoff is truly winding down.

Updated Date: Aug 29, 2017 13:31 PM

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