Nuke fears rise in Himalayas
China, India face off across unclear border at altitude
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.”