The Doklam standoff ended last week after 70 days during which the Indian and Chinese troops stood on their toes in a territory disputed between Bhutan and China. India made sure that Chinese salami slicing policy did not succeed at Doklam.
China finally had to climb down as it got almost isolated with no country backing its claim over Doklam. On the other hand, the US, the UK and Japan openly threw their weight behind India. They called for maintaining status quo and settling the dispute through talks. This is exactly India stated when Chinese troops tried to alter the status quo by constructing a highway in the region.
China threatened India with a military action. On China’s army day, President Xi Jinping, in a veiled reference, described India as an aggressor. Chinese spokespersons demanded that India must withdraw unconditionally from Doklam before any meaningful bilateral talks could be held and its state-owned media launched a tirade against India. Finally, an understanding was reached and disengagement was announced on August 26.
WHY CHINESE MEDIA CHANGED TONE
Now, the Chinese media is projecting China as a victim. But, while doing so, it is acknowledging that India has changed since the last border conflict – a point categorically stated by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley at an India Today event in June.
Responding to Chinese foreign ministry’s remarks that India must learn from its lessons from 1962 war and withdraw its troops from Doklam, Arun Jaitley had then said, “India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962.”
During Doklam, China experienced a new India, who Chinese media is branding as “aggressive” and “bellicose”. India, on the other hand, displayed how China should be handled when it enters into a territorial conflict. Doklam experience may help the US and Japan in dealing with China in the South China Sea.
WHAT CHINESE MEDIA SAID
With BRICS summit only days away, state-owned the Global Times of China has written that it is “time for India to push past anger and strengthen BRICS cooperation.” In another article, the paper says that BRICS success depends on the “positive attitude of India”.
Interestingly, the Chinese media denounced India’s economic and international standing during Doklam standoff. Several Chinese commentators undermined India’s stature saying that China’s economy was five times bigger. On military front, in one of the articles, the Global Times wrote that in the event of war “the PLA is perfectly capable of annihilating all Indian troops in the border region.”
Now, the same paper writes, “Recently, India’s attitude toward China has changed a lot. India has become aggressive and bellicose.”
OTHER WORRIES OF CHINA
China is also worried about India putting curbs on unwanted Chinese imports during Doklam standoff. “In August, India launched anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into more than 90 Chinese products. This more or less demonstrated India’s unfriendly attitude toward China,” the paper complains.
The growing cooperation between India and the US also makes China uncomfortable. India and the US held Malabar naval exercise while Indian and Chinese troops stayed positioned at 150 metres from each other in Doklam. Later, the US backed India’s stand favouring bilateral talks to settle boundary disputes.
The Global Times writes, “After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, the Modi administration strengthened its opposition against China. These changes were music to the ears of Western countries since they feel that India’s actions will be able to suppress China at low costs to themselves.”
The way India dig its heels in Doklam has made China a bit nervous as its ambition of becoming the leading superpower of the world and the undisputed leader of Asia has taken a beating.
India’s stand at Doklam has made China look vulnerable as a superpower. China is now playing victim card to garner some international support – which it could not find during Doklam standoff – at a time when it is hosting the head of BRICS states, a group representing 40 per cent of world’s population and 22 per cent of world’s GDP.