India and China come up with a face-saver

An Indian withdrawal from the summit would have caused embarrassment to the host, hence diplomacy was given a chance.

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Published: Mon 28 Aug 2017, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Aug 2017, 10:13 PM

Perceptions can be dangerous when it comes to borders and boundary disputes. Countries believe they must hold and gain some ground for strategic advantage, which in some cases can tip them over the edge and headlong into war if the situation is not managed and more importantly, contained. When it involves nuclear neighbours and Asian heavyweights - the Tiger and the Dragon - the world should be concerned. Those concerns were not unwarranted during the three-month Doklam standoff between India and China.
No one wanted war despite the warmongering. What started it was again a matter of perceptions  - how both the sides viewed a tract of land that in fact belonged to Bhutan. The small country, however, felt powerless to stake its claim- its voice trailing off with all the sabre-rattling. But tensions between India and China ended on Monday as abruptly as it began three months ago.
An Indian foreign ministry statement on Twitter said both sides had agreed to disengage, which means their troops would return to defensive positions, India had moved 350 troops to the disputed spot while China sent 300 soldiers. Beijing, meanwhile, said its troops would stand their ground, a position which no country could confirm or deny. However, the good news is that it's a face-saving withdrawal for both sides. They didn't want to be seen backing down and they may have got what they wanted ahead of the Brics summit in China where leaders of the two countries are expected to come face to face.
 An Indian withdrawal from the summit would have caused  embarrassment to the host, hence diplomacy was given a chance. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping know that an escalation of the situation is not in their interests. There's  much at stake. A conflict would have put them back and the region by years, even decades. What saved the day was the maturity shown to keep diplomatic channels open through the crisis. They may remain wary of each other, but for now they can pat themselves on the backs for making Asia safer.

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