The Hindu – India-China border standoff: Beijing steps up verbal assault

Atul Aneja

Beijing, 6 July 2017. China on Thursday stepped up its verbal assault on India, accusing New Delhi of using road construction by China as an excuse for an alleged incursion into Chinese territory, and of militarising its side of the border.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, warned at a daily news briefing that India must pull back its forces to its side of the border in order “to avoid there being an even more serious situation creating even more serious consequences.”

China has said that Indian forces had intruded into the Donglang or Doklam — an area, which according to Chinese interpretation lies undisputedly on its side of the boundary in the Sikkim border area.

The border between Sikkim and Tibet has been delineated based on the 1890 convention between China and Britain.

India, however, has rejected this interpretation, pointing out that the road construction by China would undermine India’s security.

Analysts say that the construction of a new road through the Chumbi valley would further endanger the “Chicken’s Neck”, the narrow corridor that links the north-east with the rest of India.

Bhutan, which has a territorial dispute with Beijing has also underscored that Doklam is a disputed territory, and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the area.

Separately, an editorial on Thursday, in state-run tabloid Global Times, proposed that, “China should lead the international community in restoring Bhutan’s diplomatic and defence sovereignty,” insinuating that India had constrained free expression of Bhutan’s political will.

It also added that “Beijing should reconsider its stance over the Sikkim issue.”

Contesting the Indian view, Mr Geng said that China did not concur with the Indian perception that the road would pose a security risk. He asserted that China had every right to build roads in its own territory.

He added that it was “ridiculous” for India to cross into Chinese territory, on the pretext that China was building a road in that area.

“Over the past few years it’s actually been India that has in the Sikkim sector of the China-India border who has been building a great number of facilities and deploying a large number of forces, apart from fortifying some areas. I don’t know whether India has considered China’s security concerns while doing these things.”

However, in an interview with The Hindu, Hu Shisheng, Director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, acknowledged that, “In the past Indian side left behind infrastructure construction because one of the lessons of the 1962 war (was) not (to) build infrastructure.

Anyway, for many years in the past, China has been building infrastructure extending to the frontier regions. So my personal understanding that this is (road construction in Donglang) one part of the effort.”


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