So, the Chinese haven't backed off from Doklam fully. As much was confirmed by none less than the Army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat.
According to the chief, Chinese troops have maintained their presence in Doklam, but “their numbers have thinned.” This is contrary to what was officially claimed in end-August by the foreign office on the eve of the prime minister's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.
The Army chief also clarified that the Army had left the briefing then to the foreign office because the issue involved a third country, Bhutan, and so the ministry of external affairs was the appropriate agency to brief the media.
THE WEEK had then reported that the Chinese had not withdrawn, and that they had only scaled down their presence. This has now been confirmed by the army chief.
Giving a detailed picture of the issue at his annual Army press conference, Gen. Rawat said road construction by the Chinese had been on in Doklam since 2000, on the northern side of Tosa nullah which he called northern Doklam. But by last June, the Chinese soldiers had come close to Tosa nulla, and India apprehended that the Chinese would soon be targeting the area occupied by a Royal Bhutanese Army post. That was when India intervened on Bhutan's request. “The Chinese had come with a large manpower and equipment. We felt they will try to claim the whole Doklam... It was also posing a threat to us as it was changing the status quo," he said.
Following diplomatic negotiations, both sides have thinned down their presence. But they have left their large equipment there such as tents, cots.
However, in other sectors across the border, both India and China increased their troop levels and intensified patrolling. This means that there are more occasions for both to cross each other's path, and that is why incidents are increasing. But there are mechanisms at commanding officers' level to talk out these issues. “We are also capable of handling their assertiveness on the border,” said the Army chief.
North Doklam had, all along, been under the PLA's control, and they are remaining there, he clarified. “We are also back at our old position on the watershed.”