In a breakthrough ahead of the BRICS summit, India and China on Monday agreed to withdraw their troops from the disputed Doklam area, ending a nearly three-month standoff between the armies of the two countries that led to a sharp escalation in bilateral tensions.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry broke the news on the development on Monday morning, which was shortly followed by the Chinese Foreign Office confirming the disengagement.

The External Affairs Ministry statement said “In recent weeks, India and China have maintained diplomatic communication in respect of the incident at Doklam. 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 face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to, and is ongoing.”

Indian Army sources in New Delhi also confirmed that the process of disengagement was in progress.

The decision to disengage their troops comes ahead of a crucial BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit being hosted by China on September 3-4, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that India has withdrawn its troops from Doklam but Chinese troops will “remain in the region” and exercise their “sovereignty over the region”.

Its spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Chinese border troops will “continue to patrol in Donglong”, which India refers to as Doklam, in the Sikkim sector.

“On the afternoon of August 28, the Indian side pulled back all the Indian troops and equipment to the Indian side of the boundary and the Chinese personnel have verified this,” Hua said.

“The Chinese side will continue to exercise its sovereignty and uphold its territorial integrity in accordance with historical conventions,” she added.

Asked if the disengagement was from both sides, Hua repeated the same statement.

This is in contrast to India’s statement that both countries have agreed to “disengage” in Doklam.

The standoff began on June 16 when Indian troops stopped a People’s Liberation Army contingent from building a road in Doklam, which is in the tri-junction of China-Bhutan-India. The Chinese side refused to withdraw, and instead accused India of transgressing into its territory. The Chinese side since then has been on an offensive and on occasions issued veiled threats of war.

India has maintained that both sides should withdraw simultaneously for any dialogue on the issue, and asserted that war was not a solution.

Amidst the standoff, Prime Minister Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hamburg on the sidelines of the G20 summit, while National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on the sidelines of a BRICS security meet.

The stand-off is the most serious confrontation so far between India and China since the 1962 war.

First Published | 28 August 2017 12:33 PM
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