China’s building an all-weather road on Bhutan’s territory, one capable of sustaining heavy vehicles, was heavily disapproved by Bhutan and India. If Chinese claims the Doklam plateau, it would bring China within reach of India’s vulnerable ‘Chicken Neck’, the Siliguri Corridor. This has always been India’s ‘Achilles heel’ (a weakness or vulnerable point).
In 2007, India and Bhutan had made a Friendship Treaty. According to it, the two countries are committed to coordinate on issues concerning their national interests.
Neither side appears to be in a mood to cede (give up) ground. The Chinese side has laid down a condition that, India should withdraw its troops as a precondition, for essential peace talks. Implicit threats have already been exchanged.
Diplomacy should have been the way out, but no bilateral meeting took place between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit. India’s friends are also unlikely to persuade China to step back.
India and China though are reluctant to engage in an open conflict, due to their own reasons. The Chinese economy is slowing down at present and it is also preparing for its 19th Party Congress, at which Xi Jinping hopes to establish full control.
If the situation is to be resolved, it would need the Special Representative Meeting (SRM) that was set up to deal with border issues. SRM has been used previously to deal with border matters. The Special Representatives should, hence, urgently establish contact and work out a modus vivendi (an arrangement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully) that would ensure an efficient solution.