New Delhi should come to its senses while it has time

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

As the stand­off in Donglang be­tween Chi­nese and In­dian bor­der troops en­ters its sev­enth week, the win­dow for a peace­ful so­lu­tion is clos­ing. The count­down to a clash be­tween the two forces has be­gun, and the clock is tick­ing away the time to what seems to be an in­evitable con­clu­sion. But it doesn’t have to be so. Bei­jing has time and again sent the mes­sage that to avoid con­flict all In­dia needs to do is with­draw all its troops from an area that based on his­tor­i­cal treaties, his­tor­i­cally ex­pressed agree­ments and long-ex­er­cised con­trol both have long agreed is Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.

The Min­istry of De­fense has warned In­dia not to har­bor any il­lu­sions and un­der­es­ti­mate the re­solve of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army to de­fend China’s sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity. There is a “bot­tom line” to the re­straint shown by China to In­dia’s tres­pass, as a min­istry spokesman said.

Any­one with eyes to see and ears to hear will have got the mes­sage. Yet New Delhi re­fuses to come to its senses and pull its troops back to its own side of the bor­der.

Dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous stand­offs that hap­pened at parts of the bor­der con­tested by both coun­tries, the mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment by In­dia this time, which even in its own words is on for­eign soil — In­dia says Donglang is ter­ri­tory dis­puted by China and Bhutan — has sab­o­taged long-stand­ing agree­ments and un­der­stand­ings the two sides have worked hard to build over the years.

In­dia’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for this — its own se­cu­rity con­cerns and its sup­port for Bhutan — do not stand up to scru­tiny, as made clear by the po­si­tion paper re­leased by the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry, and do not ex­cuse its il­le­gal act.

In­dia’s au­dac­ity in chal­leng­ing China’s sovereignty may come from its own sense of in­fe­ri­or­ity and in­se­cu­rity in the face of China’s rapid rise to promi­nence in the re­gion, but bet­ting on Bei­jing back­ing away from a fight be­cause of its de­sire for a peace­ful neigh­bor­hood is a risk, as it ig­nores the fact that the foun­da­tion for that is coun­tries re­spect­ing China’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity.

In­dia’s tres­pass­ing is chang­ing the long and legally es­tab­lished sta­tus quo in the area and is thus an act that China has no op­tion but to re­sist.

Yet be­ing at log­ger­heads serves nei­ther side any good, and a vi­o­lent clash is still avoid­able, even at this late stage.

He who stirs up trou­ble should end it, as a Chi­nese proverb goes. In­dia should with­draw its troops while the clock is still tick­ing. It will only have it­self to blame if its stub­born re­fusal to heed the voice of rea­son leads to con­se­quences it re­grets.

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