The Doklam plateau is back in the reckoning merely five weeks after an over 70-day stand-off came to an end in the wake of BRICS summit at Xiamen in China. Reports from the region suggest that China has not removed its forces or road construction equipment from the region.
China is reported to have resumed work on widening of road about 10 km from the site of Doklam stand-off. However, this area was never in contention between Bhutan and China. India had not objected to construction activities on the present stretch of road building.
However, with China making its intention clear, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar travelled to Bhutan with a group of officials to hold take stock of the situation. This is the first high-level visit from India to Bhutan since Doklam stand-off was defused.
On August 28, India and China announced to disengage at Doka La, the site of military stand-off that had begun in June. The two sides agreed to pull their troops back by 150 metres each.
India kept its troops at 150 metres from Doka La till a few after the BRICS summit was over. At Xiamen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to enhance confidence building measures between the two countries.
Following this understanding between Modi and Jinping, India moved its troops to the India Army posts. China also moved its troops backwards. But, the Chinese troops remained stationed at a distance of about 800 metres from Doka La.
China is said to have reduced its strength from over 3,000 soldiers in the region to 1,500. At present, reports say that China maintains about 1,000 troops in the Doklam region. China has not, it seems, implemented the understanding arrived for disengagement. And, its domestic political considerations are being cited as the reason.
The Communist Party of China, the ruling power, is holding its week-long Congress from October 18 in Beijing. The Congress, held every five years, is the biggest political event for China.
During the week-long Congress meet, the polit buro and the polit buro standing committee of the Communist Party of China will get a new look. Xi Jinping is looking to consolidate his position in the Congress.
Xi Jinping is logged in an internal political battle with the loyalists of former President Jiang Zemin, who continues to wield considerable influence. Jiang Zemin loyalists are pushing for more seats in the standing committee, which is arguably the most powerful body in the CPC.
On the other hand, Jinping is looking to fill all the posts with his own loyalists. But, on account of age – which became the top criterion for entry into the polit buro standing committee – only Xi Jinping and his Premier Le Kiqiang will enter the revamped body.
Doklam stand-off was largely seen as backing off by China in the face of stiff resistance from India and mounting international pressure in the wake of BRICS summit. Aggressive posturing ahead of CPC Congress is an attempt by Xi Jinping administration to assert his authority and win more members of the Communist Party of China to his side.
XI JINPING’S AMBITION
The 19th CPC Congress is crucial for Xi Jinping for another reason. Jinping completes his second term in 2022. This is the last Congress before he ordinarily retires. But, Jinping is looking for a third term.
If Jinping has to secure a third term, the CPC Congress will have to approve amendment to the Constitution paving way for his continued leadership. But, this can happen only if Jinping manages to sideline or win over the supporters of Jiang Zemin.
The seven-member polit buro standing committee of the CPC has, at least, three members – Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli – are considered Jiang Zemin loyalists. The polit buro has more number of Jiang Zemin loyalists, who may oppose a third term for Xi Jinping.
Xi Jinping has been trying to project himself as the strongest leader since Deng Xiaoping and possibly Mao Zedong. Jinping got his position elevated to the “core leader” in the CPC. This position was held by Deng Xiaoping, who is widely held as the father of modernisation of China.
But, in August this year, Jinping was publicly addressed as the “Chairman” by the PLA forces. This title was never held by any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of the communist China.
Mao had attained cult status in China following his 1962 invasion of India in the eastern theatre. Jinping cannot order an invasion as it may backfire, but a strong posturing over Doklam close to winter – during which he may easily allow the military build to die – may win him crucial votes in the Congress for an unprecedented third term as President of China.
Source : India Today