Ten­sions high in the dis­puted Hi­malayas

China de­mands In­dia with­drawal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

China yes­ter­day in­sisted In­dia with­draw its troops from a dis­puted plateau in the Hi­malayan moun­tains be­fore talks can take place to set­tle the most pro­tracted stand­off in re­cent years be­tween the nu­cle­ar­armed neigh­bors who fought a brief but bloody fron­tier war in the area 55 years ago. In­dia must pull back its troops “as soon as pos­si­ble” as a pre­con­di­tion to demon­strate “sin­cer­ity,” for­eign min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang told re­porters at a daily news brief­ing. His com­ments came af­ter weeks of saber-rat­tling in New Delhi and Bei­jing, as of­fi­cials from both sides talk up a po­ten­tial clash even blood­ier than their 1962 war that left thou­sands dead.

The con­fronta­tion could spill over into the G-20 sum­mit in Ger­many later this week where Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his In­dian coun­ter­part Naren­dra Modi are ex­pected to meet at a gath­er­ing of lead­ers from five emerg­ing economies on the side­lines of the main event in Ham­burg. The month-long stand­off - and un­con­firmed re­ports of troop buildups on both sides of the bor­der - has also un­der­scored the swiftly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions be­tween the two Asian ri­vals.

China claims about 90,000 square kilo­me­ters in the In­dian prov­ince of Arunachal Pradesh, re­ferred to in­for­mally by some Chi­nese as “South­ern Ti­bet.” In­dia says China is oc­cu­py­ing 38,000 square kilo­me­ters of its ter­ri­tory on the Ak­sai Chin plateau. More than a dozen rounds of talks have failed to make sub­stan­tial progress in the dis­pute, al­though there have been rel­a­tively few con­fronta­tions in re­cent years. China ap­peared frus­trated that In­dia re­fused to sign on this year to its con­ti­nent-wide “One Belt, One Road” in­fra­struc­ture ini­tia­tive, which in­cludes a com­po­nent in Pak­istan and a part of Kash­mir that is con­tested by In­dia.

China also com­plained bit­terly when Ti­bet’s spir­i­tual leader, the Dalai Lama, who lives in ex­ile in In­dia, vis­ited Arunachal Pradesh in April, some­thing In­dia said amounted to in­ter­fer­ence in its in­ter­nal af­fairs. Yet In­dia also for­mally joined the Rus­sian and Chi­nese-dom­i­nated Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion this year along­side Pak­istan. The lat­est dis­pute flared up in June af­ter Chi­nese teams be­gan build­ing a road on ter­ri­tory also claimed by Bhutan. Al­though China and Bhutan have spent decades ne­go­ti­at­ing the pre­cise bor­der with­out se­ri­ous in­ci­dent, the tiny Hi­malayan king­dom sought help this time from its long­time ally, In­dia, which sent troops onto the plateau to ob­struct Chi­nese work­ers.

China then re­tal­i­ated by clos­ing a moun­tain pass that In­dian pil­grims use to reach Mount Kailash, a sa­cred Hindu and Bud­dhist site in Ti­bet. Since then, videos have emerged of In­dian and Chi­nese sol­diers block­ing each other with their arms and phys­i­cally jostling with­out com­ing to blows. Af­ter Chi­nese of­fi­cials said In­dia should learn “his­toric lessons” from its hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat in the 1962 war, In­dian De­fense Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley shot back by say­ing that “In­dia in 2017 is dif­fer­ent from In­dia in 1962,” in a ref­er­ence to its im­proved mil­i­tary strength.

In an ed­i­to­rial head­lined “In­dia would bear brunt of new bor­der clash,” China’s outspoken na­tion­al­ist tabloid Global Times ramped up the rhetoric yes­ter­day by say­ing that China was in no mood to make con­ces­sions. “The In­dian mil­i­tary can choose to re­turn to its ter­ri­tory with dig­nity, or be kicked out of the area by Chi­nese sol­diers,” said the pa­per, which is pub­lished by the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party flag­ship Peo­ple’s Daily. Mean­while, the more main­stream China Daily sug­gested that some in the In­dian mil­i­tary were seek­ing pay­back for the 1962 war. “Per­haps its de­feat in that war was too hu­mil­i­at­ing for some in the In­dian mil­i­tary and that is why they are talk­ing bel­liger­ently this time,” it said.

Al­though the Dok­lam Plateau is not part of In­dian ter­ri­tory, In­dia’s Min­istry of Ex­ter­nals Af­fairs has called Chi­nese ac­tions in the area a move with “se­ri­ous se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia.” Former In­dian am­bas­sador to Bei­jing CV Ran­ganathan said that Dok­lam is a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant area that can pro­vide ac­cess to the vi­tal Silig­uri cor­ri­dor -also known as the “Chicken Neck” - that con­nects In­dia’s north­east with the rest of the coun­try. But he said he was “baf­fled” as to why the dis­pute flared up now. “The fact that this has lasted so long is not a good sign,” he said. “In­dia and China’s re­la­tion­ship has been on a down­ward trend re­cently and this in fact is yet an­other ex­am­ple.”—AP

Photo shows a Chi­nese sol­dier (left) next to an In­dian sol­dier at the Nathu La bor­der cross­ing be­tween In­dia and China in In­dia’s north­east­ern Sikkim state. China’s am­bas­sador said yes­ter­day that the with­drawal of In­dian troops from a dis­puted ter­ri­tory is a “pre­con­di­tion” for peace, in an ap­par­ent es­ca­la­tion of a bor­der row be­tween the two Asian pow­ers that has drawn in tiny Bhutan. —AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.