The Doklam standoff between India and China has reached a point where speculation has already begun of armed conflict. However, according to a policy expert, India is already winning this one, even though not a single bullet has been fired from either side!
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, as said in a column written for the Economic Times that it is actually China that is "caught in a bind" over the entire matter, despite the high-pitched rhetoric its officials and news outlets have been spewing.
The author calls it one of the "best managed crises by India's Ministry of External Affairs," because India has taken no step to escalate the situation, despite persistent claims to the contrary. Let's take a look at where things stand, then.
China's repeated 'warnings'
China has heaped its allegations on what India has done:
* A "senior colonel" in the Chinese army has implied that India has invaded Chinese territory, and that China will not tolerate any compromise on the issue. It also refused any negotiation on the issue.
* Wu Qian, a spokesperson of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), referenced the India-China war of 1962, and said India should take lessons from the conflict. The implied statement here was that India should back down before it is defeated in conflict again.
* That was hardly the first time the war and India's defeat was discussed in the context of the Doklam conflict, with Chinese news outlets getting heavily into the act. They also called for China to teach India a "bitter lesson."
* Chinese experts have warned time and again of "imminent" war if India does not withdraw its troops from Doklam. The words "military action" and "all out confrontation" have also been thrown around. The Chinese armed forced have also urged India not to "harbour illusions."
* With no signs of India backing down, China resorted to warning of action in Jammu and Kashmir on behalf of Pakistan. Not once, but twice!
* Meanwhile, Chinese news organisations warned of dire action if India tried to counter this threat by bringing in the topic of the Dalai Lama. This was the same Dalai Lama who would go on to call for peace between the two countries.
* Then, when certain sections of Indian polity called for boycotting Chinese goods, Chinese media said it would harm India more than China.
* About a week ago, Chinese armed forces even warned of military action against India within two weeks. They then claimed that India had tresspassed into Chinese territory, even as Bhutan kept on claiming that Doklam belonged to it.
* On Wednesday, China's most-circulated daily newspaper warned that the "countdown to a clash" between India and China had begun.
India's handling of the matter
India, despite the many instigations from China, has continued to try and diffuse tensions between both sides. It has not only asked for dialogues, but also not given in to Chinese provocations for high-pitched rhetoric.
It is this approach that seems to have China rattled. As Iyer-Mitra writes, "[The] Chinese feel that they, rather than India, are caught in a bind," because they are "unable to resort to the use of force for fear of destroying the myth of nuclear deterrence."
He adds that China will be in for some great losses if it now resorts to strategically or diplomatically escalate the situation. Therefore, "short of an extremely serious miscalculation by the Chinese leadership, the situation has plateaued, he says, explaining: "The only spikes will be verbal, and that too from the Chinese side."
Iyer-Mitra thus draws the conclusion: "Escalation is not an option for China. But de-escalation also seems impossible, till public attention is shifted elsewhere."
This is where India's win lies, because it has successfully halted China's "salami tactics" — defined as "a divide-and-conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition."