In­dia’s moves de­mand strict vigil

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

For the past three weeks, China has been de­mand­ing that In­dia with­draw its troops that have crossed into Chi­nese ter­ri­tory to avoid “fur­ther con­se­quences”. The Sikkim sec­tion of the Chi­naIn­dia bor­der, where the In­dian troops tres­passed on Chi­nese ter­ri­tory and have re­mained since June 16, was de­mar­cated by the Con­ven­tion Be­tween Great Bri­tain and China Re­lat­ing to Sikkim and Ti­bet in 1890 and has been ac­knowl­edged by suc­ces­sive In­dian gov­ern­ments.

The bor­der sit­u­a­tion has been grave for weeks and may take longer to be re­solved. China’s Am­bas­sador to In­dia Luo Zhao­hui said this is the first time In­dian troops have crossed the mu­tu­ally rec­og­nized bound­ary, lead­ing to a close-range face off be­tween Chi­nese and In­dian bor­der troops, which could be po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive even though over the past five decades, not a sin­gle bul­let has been fired across the In­dia-China bor­der.

Un­like pre­vi­ous face-offs be­tween the two bor­der troops, in­clud­ing the one that lasted 26 days dur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to In­dia in 2014, the on­go­ing row is not about bi­lat­eral bor­der dis­putes. In­dia said its troops tres­passed on Chi­nese ter­ri­tory on be­half of Bhutan, which it said has a dis­pute with China over the Don­g­long (Dok­lam in Bhutanese) re­gion.

The truth is, Bhutan was not in­formed on the day the In­dian troops crossed the bor­der, nor did it seek In­dia’s in­ter­ven­tion. A state­ment is­sued by the Bhutanese gov­ern­ment on June 29 sug­gested the coun­try was not con­sulted by In­dia be­fore the in­ci­dent and it hoped that sta­tus quo would be main­tained in the Don­g­long re­gion. In other words, In­dia is not en­ti­tled at all to claim the so-called dis­puted ter­ri­tory on be­half of Bhutan.

It is also note­wor­thy that the trans­gres­sion did not hap­pen in dis­puted ar­eas, such as those in Dep­sang and Dem­chok in the western sec­tion of the China-In­dia bor­der be­fore 2008. The Sik- kim sec­tion has not seen any “tres­pass­ing” in the past seven years, be­cause it has long been de­lim­ited and both sides have a con­sen­sus that Don­g­long be­longs to China.

New Delhi’s re­sponse is as far­fetched as its “stand up for Bhutan” sophistry. New Delhi claims the Sikkim sec­tion of the Chi­naIn­dia bound­ary is not de­lim­ited and the two sides only agreed on where the bound­ary runs, which is a breach of the 1890 Con­ven­tion and bi­lat­eral doc­u­ments that de­mar­cate the bor­der. China and Bhutan had made it clear years ago that they have no dis­pute over Don­g­long. Their fail­ure to ink an agree­ment has a lot to do with In­dia’s med­dling.

The China-In­dia bor­der is­sue will be fur­ther com­pli­cated if New Delhi presses ahead with the provo­ca­tions. While vis­it­ing the United States two weeks ago, In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi man­aged to sell the idea that New Delhi is a key de­fense part­ner of Wash­ing­ton and it can serve as a coun­ter­weight to China’s rise.

A joint state­ment is­sued dur­ing his US visit said the US-In­dia part­ner­ship is “cen­tral” to re­gional sta­bil­ity. In re­turn, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­proved the sale of 22 Preda­tor Guardian drones to In­dia, a “lux­ury” avail­able only to the US’ NATO al­lies.

It is be­com­ing clear that In­dia is ready to serve as an ally of the US rather than a swing power that hon­ors in­de­pen­dent, non­aligned diplo­macy. Bei­jing should re­main vig­i­lant against New Delhi’s moves while urg­ing it to with­draw its troops from Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.

Bei­jing should re­main vig­i­lant against New Delhi’s moves while urg­ing it to with­draw its troops from Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.

The au­thor is a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Fu­dan Univer­sity, Shang­hai.

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