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End of Doklam Standoff with China Satisfies India, but It Will Not Weaken its Shield

For India, the lesson is that even though the standoff has been resolved, future flare-ups cannot be ruled out

Doklam Standoff
In this Oct. 16, 2016 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the signing ceremony by foreign ministers during the BRICS summit in Goa, India. China and India may have ended a tense border standoff for now, but their longstanding rivalry raises questions about the possibility of meaningful cooperation at the annual summit of the BRICS grouping encompassing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. VOA
  • China has abandoned plans to construct road on the high mountain junction lying between India, Bhutan, and China calling for the end of Doklam standoff
  • Indian officials maintain that China has withdrawn its bulldozers and road construction equipment
  • India will be even more vigilant in the months and years to come, not just in Doklam but in the several other sectors as well

Aug 31, 2017: As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to China for a summit of emerging nations starting Sunday, there is a sense of quiet satisfaction in New Delhi at the resolution of their most serious border confrontation in decades in a disputed Himalayan plateau.

Strategic road

For now it appears China has abandoned plans to build a contentious road on the high mountain junction lying between India, Bhutan and China that sparked the standoff between the two countries.

Indian officials maintain that China has withdrawn its bulldozers and road construction equipment.

Map shows border disputes between China and India.

Map shows border disputes between China and India

Beijing has sidestepped the issue, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying saying it will take into consideration factors such as weather “to make relevant construction plans in accordance with the situation on the ground.”

Also Read: Japan comes Out in Full Support for India in its 2-month Long Military Standoff with China at Doklam 

It was in mid-June that Indian troops moved into the Doklam Plateau to obstruct China from building a road in the Himalayan junction disputed between Bhutan and Beijing. That led an infuriated China to accuse Indian troops of trespassing into territory to which it had no claim and demand their withdrawal.

India in turn said the status quo should be restored. It says that has happened as soldiers from both sides have pulled back.

China has announced that its troops will patrol the region, but New Delhi says that happened in the past also.

Stronger India

Strategic experts say India scored by standing its ground for 2½ months despite the strident rhetoric from its powerful neighbor about the prospect of a full-blown conflict if Indian troops did not withdraw from Doklam.

“For the first time, I think the Indian government held its nerve in a crisis. Delhi in particular is known to lose its nerve, and that has not happened,” said strategic analyst Bharat Karnad at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Although Doklam is disputed between Bhutan and India, Indian troops moved in swiftly to stop the construction because the area serves as a buffer that keeps China away from a strategic strip of territory that connects India to its northeast.

FILE - Exile Tibetans shout slogans during a protest to show support with India on Doklam standoff in New Delhi, India, Aug. 11, 2017.
FILE – Exile Tibetans shout slogans during a protest to show support with India on Doklam standoff in New Delhi, India, Aug. 11, 2017. VOA

Lingering bad feelings

But although the crisis has been defused, it has further frayed ties and has deepened mistrust between the Asian giants, analysts say.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said Wednesday that New Delhi should learn lessons from Doklam and prevent similar incidents from happening again.

For India, the lesson is that even though the standoff has been resolved, future flare-ups cannot be ruled out.

“The problem is essentially the aggressive stance that China has adopted on all territorial matters with all countries and here the manner in which it has tried to alter the status quo on the ground by building this road, which we have stopped,” said Jayadeva Ranade, a former China specialist at the Indian government’s National Security Advisory Board. He warned that they might repeat Doklam next year or try something else.

Lessons learned

Indeed, India will be even more vigilant in the months and years to come, not just in Doklam but in the several other sectors along their 3,500 kilometer Himalayan boundary that remains disputed despite decades-long negotiations. That was underlined by India’s army chief, Bipin Rawat, just a day before the formal announcement of the agreement.

“My message to my people is that remain prepared, it can happen again, and therefore do not let your guard down,” he said.

However for the time being there is a sense of relief that the crisis is over, especially because the spat had pulled in Bhutan, India’s tiny neighbor, which feared being caught in the middle of the two huge Asian countries and whose ties with India might have been jeopardized had the conflict flared.

Commentators say the resolution of the dispute also sent a message to other countries that China is not unchallengeable.

Countries embroiled in disputes with China in the South China Sea and elsewhere can look at this crisis as a case study on how to avoid escalation with the Asian giant while sticking to their position, according to Michael Kugelman, South Asia’s deputy director at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“The fact that India stood its ground before eventually fashioning a resolution is something that many other countries will take notice of and try to learn lessons from,” he said.

The forthcoming BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in China might have played a role, according to several reports. New Delhi had refused to confirm Modi’s attendance at the meeting until the crisis was resolved. As he leaves this weekend, India feels it has sent a message that it reached an equitable agreement with China, but their recent tensions may well loom over the meeting. (VOA)

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As Huawei CFO Gets Released On a Bail, Trump Suggests a Trade Deal With China

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

huawei, Trump
People are escorted out of the court registry by a B.C. sheriff after the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was released on a $10 million bail in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. VOA

A court in Canada has released tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on bail as she awaits possible extradition to the United States over bank fraud allegations linked to Iran sanctions.However, in a new twist to the case that has quickly mushroomed far beyond its initial scope, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he might intervene.

“Whatever’s good for the country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, shortly after the ruling. “If I think it’s good for what will certainly be the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing. What’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”


Huawei, China, Trump
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters. VOA

The United States has 60 days from the day of Meng’s arrest to issue a formal extradition request and provide Canadian courts with evidence. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was taken into custody on December 1 while transiting planes in Canada.


While her legal fate is worked out, Meng agreed to post $7.5 million in bail, hand over her passports and remain in British Columbia. She will also wear an ankle bracelet and be under 24-hour surveillance, barred from leaving a home she owns in Vancouver between 11 at night and six in the morning.

Huawei Technologies is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of mobile phones. The case against Meng is not only about violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran but deep suspicions about the company and its connections to Chinese authorities, allegations Huawei has both repeatedly denied.


Huawei, Trump
People walk past an advertisement for Huawei at a subway station in Hong Kong. VOA


Suspected intel links 

National security experts have raised concerns that data on Huawei devices could be made available to China’s intelligence services. The company is also a key global competitor in the ongoing race to roll out fifth generation or 5G mobile networks.

U.S. officials say Meng lied to banks about Huawei’s control of Hong Kong-based Skycom — a company that allegedly sold U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

If convicted in the United States, she could face up to 30 years in prison. Meng maintains she is innocent and some argue that U.S. authorities have a lot to prove in their case against Meng.

Zhao Zhanling, a researcher at the Intellectual Property Center of China University of Political Science and Law, argues that the United States cannot apply its local laws to a foreign company or one of its top executives.

And that is just one of many uncertainties in the case, Zhao said.

U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

“This is a case that is politically complicated, that has diplomatic elements and is linked to the U.S.-China trade war,” Zhao said. “And under those circumstances, whether the extradition is approved or whether the U.S. will press ahead with extradition remains to be seen.”

Trump intervention 

Zhao believes there’s a good chance that Washington will give up the extradition request in exchange for a better trade deal with China.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Meng’s arrest was a mistake from the “start,” but welcomed Trump’s remarks.

“Any person, especially if it is a leader of the United States or a high-level figure who is willing to make positive efforts to push this situation in the right direction, then that of course, deserves to be well received,” Lu said.

Julian Ku, a professor of law at Hofstra University in New York, said that while President Trump can instruct the attorney general to withdraw an extradition request, “it doesn’t sound like he has been fully briefed on the charges against Meng and its legal basis.”

That or the “complexities of making these comments during an extradition proceeding,” he adds.

Huawei, China, Canada, Trump
The exterior of the Alouette Correctional Center for Women, where Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was being held on an extradition warrant, is seen in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

For now, Ku said it is his impression that Trump does not have any plans to act one way or the other, just that he didn’t want to rule anything out.

China has argued that the case against Meng is politically motivated and the president’s comments will go a long way to bolstering that view. Some analysts also worry that it sets a dangerous precedent, putting Americans at risk and undercutting rule of law.

Beijing retaliation likely 

China has already lashed out at both Canada and the United States over her arrest, warning Ottawa of severe consequences. There are already signs that both governments may be preparing to issue travel warnings to their citizens traveling to China.

And analysts have said retaliation from Beijing is likely.

Just prior to Meng’s final day in court, Canada confirmed Chinese authorities have detained Canadian Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who is currently a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.

Hong Kong, Trump
In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. VOA

The Canadian government voiced its “deep concern” but said it sees no explicit connection between Kovrig’s arrest and the Meng case.

Others disagree.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” the group said in an earlier statement.

Also Read: China Warns Canada Against Severe Consequences If Huawei CFO Isn’t Released

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

“If they are not registered and their workers are in China undertaking activities, then that’s already outside of, and breaking, the law, revised just last year, on the management of overseas non-governmental organizations operating in China,” Lu said.

ICG could not be reached for further comment. (VOA)