India has had a long history of standoffs with China, given their long and unsettled border. On one occasion it has led to war, on others, skirmishes and artillery duels. But in the past 40 years, the confrontations have been carefully choreographed through a series of Confidence Building Measures to ensure that the two countries do not end up shooting at each other.
What makes the current clash in Doklam plateau serious is its location, and the fact that it is entangled with the issues of a third country, Bhutan. The location is near the Siliguri Corridor, a narrow neck of land, just about 25 km at places, bound by Nepal and Bangladesh and proximate to Bhutan and China.
As distances go, Siliguri, the principal rail, air and road hub that connects Northeast India to the rest of India, is just 8 km from Bangladesh, 40 km from Nepal, 60 km from Bhutan and 150 km from China. With China seeking to expand control over the Doklam plateau, it shortens the distance by 20 kms or so.
Chinese proximity comes through the Chumbi Valley, a sliver of land between...