There didn't appear to be an end to the long haul of aggressive and full-fledged psychological warfare waged by China as its propaganda machinery continued its publicity blitz threatening India of dire consequences, reminding New Delhi of the 1962 debacle. The State media was frenzied and its statements carried a belligerent tenor and the tone seemed to suggest that if the Indians didn't withdraw from Doka La, 'war' was imminent. Temperatures were soaring, no solution seemed to be on the horizon and the freeze appeared impossible to thaw.
On India's part, however, there was no let-up in the diplomatic efforts to end the standoff, particularly before the BRICS Summit in China that begins on 3 September. It must be said without exaggeration that there was one man who worked tirelessly and almost singlehandedly to overcome the deadlock. On 28 August, came relief and the Indian and (later) Chinese armies started withdrawing. The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement and things moved positively at a breakneck speed. How did this happen?
When it seemed there was no light at the end of the tunnel, the light beamed and brightly. The withdrawal of troops wasn't easy at all, yet it happened.
The man who led the team and brought about this rapprochement was none other than India's national security advisor Ajit Doval. Strangely, he is no diplomat by training or profession. He is a leader of men par excellence who not only led from the front, but took everyone along with him to get things done. Insiders say that Doval, with a gifted virtue of motivating his colleagues and instilling esprit de corps, took a mission that appeared possible and turned it into a "mission accomplished".
Let's quickly recap the happenings that led to this resolution. In the absence of any forward movement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping decided to depute NSAs from both the countries. Doval met Yang Jiechi in Beijing and things began rolling at quick speed, culminating in the decision to start the disengagement of both the armies at the earliest.
Subsequently, the Chinese ambassador was quickly met in New Delhi and the dynamics required on the Indian side were worked out. Doval, displaying his administrative nous, dexterous diplomatic moves and vision, brought all those concerned to the same table. Such tasks are not only onerous, but tricky too. But Doval with his tremendous wealth of experience and exposure in skilful negotiation in matters of statecraft came useful. As a police officer, he was known for his sharp instincts. As an intelligence officer, his masterstrokes in bringing Mizo leader Laldenga to the table to sign the Mizo accord and his singular vision and daring acts during the peak of the Khalistan crisis surely served as relevant experience.
With acute clarity about the dos and don'ts when working out the delicate task of disengagement, Doval proceeded with abundant caution and care in implementing his blueprint involving the army chief, heads of external and internal intelligence agencies, and other need-based stakeholders bringing them to the same page for concerted action. The margin of error needed to be zero and with time being of the essence, as the clock was ticking ahead of the BRICS meet. China too was keen on India not skipping the summit as it had during the OBOR meet.
Another significant feature that needed deft handling was Bhutan. Thimphu had to be managed with subtlety and finesse as the Himalayan kingdom was wary of Chinese diktats and didn't want to be an scapegoat in the event of a worst-case scenario.
The entire nation, in reality, has heaved a sigh of relief following this disengagement, gripped as it was with uncertainty about whether the situation would deteriorate and turn into war. Indicators were alarming because of two principal factors. First, India had fought a war with China in the past and second, statements from both 'warring' sides were intimidating and threatening. The electronic media too was drumming up the war frenzy and Pakistan was watching from the wings, perhaps sadistically enjoying the escalated tension between China and India.
India position now stands vindicated and there is much peace in the pacifist camps. Many skeptics who had professed war had been proven wrong. They rightly say, "Discretion is the better part of valour". In the case of easing tension on the Doka La issue, it was proved that diplomacy is the option for solving crises of any magnitude. And Doval proved this maxim in letter and spirit.
It was also proven beyond doubt that one does not have to be a professional diplomat, a politician, a party activist or an international mediator to solve such a problem.
The author is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst. Views are personal.
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