03:04 GMT21 October 2020
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    The Doklam stand-off between India and China may have ended several weeks ago, but around 1,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers still man the disputed Himalayan border region.

    Over the summer, the world held its breath for 10 weeks while the two most populous nations on Earth deployed troops and butted heads over a planned Chinese road through the disputed border region between China and India's alpine ally Bhutan. Just as quickly as the stand-off began, however, it ended with both sides pulling back in early September.

    But a Chinese contingent of troops still stands at the border, less than 1,000 feet back from where the PLA had drawn up their battle lines in the summer. It's unlikely their presence will cause another stand-off despite the soldiers likely being there to support the same road-building effort that started the first stand-off.

    "The PLA has a base not far from the site of the stand-off and several hundred soldiers are stationed there," said Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming to the South China Morning Post. "Usually they have work to do in the region, like building roads, so that is what they are probably doing as there is still some time before the snowy season."

    A week after the stand-off ended, during the BRICS summit in China, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for an hour about the standoff, with both men vowing to work to ensure international incidents such as the one in Doklam do not recur.

    Two days later, the Indian Financial Times reported that Chinese troops were remaining in their tents and temporary structures, just 500 feet back from the previous line of stand-off.

    The agreement between the two nations was that Beijing would stop building the road and disengage their troops. They never ceded their claim on their region or agreed to fully withdraw.

    The Chinese Defense Ministry refuses to comment on the matter. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, said that "there is no dispute. The Chinese border forces have been patrolling in the area of Donglang [to the Indians, Doklam], exercising their sovereign rights and safeguarding territorial sovereignty according to the historical boundary."

    New Delhi also denied that there was anything amiss. "We have seen recent reports on Doklam," said Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs. "There are no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the August 28 disengagement. The status quo prevails in this area. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect."

    "There is a heavy presence of Chinese troops a few hundred meters away from the site of the stand-off, and they are likely to remain at least until the winter," said Rajeev Rajan Chaturvedy, a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

    "I don't think there has been any change at the Doklam stand-off site, as India still won't allow any road construction work in the disputed territory. However, I don't see there being another stand-off, as this time the Chinese troops are stationed a bit further back from the conflict site," Chaturvedy said.


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