Nuke fears rise in Hi­malayas

China, In­dia face off across un­clear bor­der at al­ti­tude

The Daily Examiner - - WORLD NEWS - Bene­dict Brook News Corp

Ri­val bor­der pa­trols will run into each other and force the is­sue.

IN THE sub-zero cold of the Hi­malayas, things are heat­ing up.

Since mid-last month, Chi­nese and In­dian sol­diers have lined up “eyeball to eyeball” on the re­mote Dok­lam plateau and in re­cent days more troops have been sent there.

Com­men­ta­tors in China have warned, “there could be a chance of war”.

That’s not a good prospect given In­dia is thought to have more than 100 nu­cle­artipped mis­siles and China’s war­heads may top 250.

The flash­point be­tween the two seems mun­dane – the build­ing of a new road on the Chi­nese con­trolled, but dis­puted, plateau. But the last time the two went to war, half a cen­tury ago, it was also over a road.

There is now a “stale­mate” in the con­fronta­tion.

The cur­rent anger kicked off in an area near the “chicken neck” – a thin stretch of land that is the only di­rect link to In­dia’s iso­lated north-east.

In early June, China started build­ing a new road lead­ing to the Dok­lam plateau, a dis­puted area it ad­min­is­ters, at the so-called “tri junc­tion” where its fron­tier meets In­dia and the tiny king­dom of Bhutan.

Bhutan has only a small army and re­lies on In­dia for mil­i­tary sup­port.

China ac­cuses In­dian troops sta­tioned in Bhutan of cross­ing the fron­tier to pre­vent con­struc­tion.

On Mon­day, China’s state news agency, Xin­hua, said the In­dian mil­i­tary’s “tres­pass into Chi­nese ter­ri­tory” was a “bla­tant in­fringe­ment on China’s sovereignty”.

How­ever, Bhutan says it is the right­ful owner of the plateau.

The real bat­tle of wills is be­tween China and In­dia, who cite dif­fer­ent treaties to back up their var­i­ous claims to land along the fron­tier.

In­dia claims 250,000sq km of Chi­nese con­trolled land and China says 550,000sq km of In­dian ad­min­is­tered land should be­long to them.

“The fail­ure to de­mar­cate the China-In­dia bor­der has led to over­lap­ping per­cep­tions of where the so-called Line of Ac­tual Con­trol lies, guar­an­tee­ing ri­val bor­der pa­trols will run into each other and force the is­sue,” Tser­ing Top­gyal, an in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ex­pert wrote in The Con­ver­sa­tion in 2014.

On Tues­day, the Times of In­dia said about 400 troops were “eyeball to eyeball” with China in a “nonag­gres­sive con­fronta­tion”, but thou­sands more sol­diers from each side were nearby.

The In­dian Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­istry has jus­ti­fied its build-up, say­ing a 2012 agree­ment meant the fron­tier at the tri junc­tion would be fi­nalised be­tween the three coun­tries.

In­dia sees the road as China as­sert­ing sovereignty.

In­dia, which calls Bhutan an “ally’, says it has in­ter­vened on its neigh­bour’s be­half.

Bei­jing has been widen­ing its in­flu­ence across the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, fund­ing big port projects in Pak­istan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

“That means In­dia is in some ways go­ing to be sur­rounded by Chi­nese in­fra­struc­ture projects,” Ab­hi­jit Singh of the Ob­server Re­search Foun­da­tion told the ABC. “The fear is these Chi­nese ports could later be used for mar­itime and naval de­ploy­ments.”

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