India and China agree to 'expeditious disengagement' of troops in Dokalam

New Delhi/Beijing
28 Aug 2017

India and China have agreed to "expeditious disengagement" of border personnel at Dokalam, New Delhi said today, a week before the BRICS summit in China that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.

In a major diplomatic breakthrough, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said the two countries had maintained "diplomatic communication" and were able to express their views, concerns and interests. The statement did not explicitly say if Chinese and Indian troops have withdrawn from the area but China claimed in a statement today that Indian troops have indeed pulled back. China, however, remained ambiguous about the status of its own troops. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told newspersons in Beijing: "Chinese troops on the ground have verified it. China continues to exercise sovereignty. China will make adjustments according to the situation."

Asked if the Chinese statement means that China has not made any concession, officials in New Delhi said expeditious disengagement implies withdrawal of both parties because a unilateral withdrawal by India would not have needed or required an agreement with China. Troops of the two countries have been locked in a standoff in Dokalam near Sikkim since June after Indian troops stopped the Chinese army from building a road in the disputed area. "In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Dokalam. During these communications, we were able to express our views and convey our concerns and interests. "On this basis, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site in Dokalam has been agreed to and is on-going," the MEA statement said. Hua, the Chinese spokesperson, said Indian soldiers and equipment had been pulled back to the Indian side of the border. The Chinese side, she added, continues to patrol the Dokalam area.

"The Chinese side continues to uphold sovereignty and territorial integrity according to the historical convention," she said. The BRICS summit, that brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen from September 3-5.