With both India and China showing no signs of backing down or coming to a solution, the Doka La standoff in Sikkim has turned into a global talking point. While China is targetting Bhutan because it is the last man standing in India’s immediate neighbourhood, the attempt to place its soldiers in the tri-junction is increasingly being seen by experts as a mistake that would push New Delhi closer to Washington and Tokyo.
After the United States urged India and China to work together to come up with some sort of arrangement for peace, Japan on Friday blatantly came out in support of New Delhi.
“We understand that the area is disputed between China and Bhutan and that both countries recognise the existence of a dispute,” NDTV quoted him as saying.
While urging all involved parties to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner, the ambassador said that Japan has been watching the situation very closely because it has the ability to affect the stability of the entire region.
On India’s position, he said, “We also understand that India has a treaty understanding with Bhutan, that’s why Indian troops got involved in the area.” According to an India Today report, Hiramatsu said that India’s involvement is understandable based on its bilateral agreements with Bhutan.
“External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has made it clear that India would continue to engage with dialogue through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution. We consider this attitude towards peaceful resolution important,” he added.
Japan’s stand and unequivocal support to India is important because China has been trying to redraw the boundaries and position itself as a regional hegemony in Asia by potentially stalling all balancing efforts by countries like India and Japan, as this Firstpost article points out. The Indian Express quoted some sources as saying that Japan itself has been at the receiving end of “Chinese expansionism” and it understands New Delhi’s position better than many. Government sources pointed out Japan’s difficulties between 2012 and 2014, when ties between China and Japan were frayed by a territorial row over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
Japan was also the only country who had indicated certain unwillingness to cooperate with China on its ambition One Belt One Road project. US and Japan also conducted the Malabar Naval Exercise with India amid the standoff, possibly indicating their continued support to New Delhi.
After a barrage of neutral arguments from countries like Nepal and the United Kingdom, government sources quoted by The Indian Express feel that Japan’s support has reinforced New Delhi’s arguments.
statement, that there should be no “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force”, comes just a month ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India.