China ups the ante in stand­off with In­dia

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

BEI­JING: China has stepped up its rhetoric in an in­creas­ingly tense bor­der row with In­dia, hint­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of mil­i­tary ac­tion in a pro­pa­ganda push that an­a­lysts are call­ing “gen­uinely trou­bling.” For more than a month, In­dian and Chi­nese troops have been locked in a stand­off on a re­mote but strate­gi­cally im­por­tant Hi­malayan plateau near where Ti­bet, In­dia and Bhutan meet.

On Thurs­day, Chi­nese de­fense min­istry spokesman Ren Guo­qiang warned that Bei­jing had shown re­straint but had a “bot­tom line.”“No coun­try should un­der­es­ti­mate the Chi­nese forces’... re­solve and willpower to de­fend na­tional sovereignty,” he said in a post on the min­istry web­site. It is a line that has been echoed al­most word for word this week by the for­eign min­istry, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency, the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party mouth­piece the Peo­ple’s Daily, the of­fi­cial mil­i­tary news web­site of the Chi­nese armed forces, and other out­lets.

On Wed­nes­day, the for­eign min­istry re­leased a 15-page doc­u­ment of “facts” about the bor­der dis­pute, which in­cluded a map of al­leged in­tru­sions and pho­to­graphs of what it stated were In­dian troops and mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles on China’s side of the fron­tier. Call­ing for the “im­me­di­ate and un­con­di­tional” with­drawal of In­dian troops, it warned Bei­jing would “take all nec­es­sary mea­sures” to safe­guard its in­ter­ests. Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thurs­day that In­dia was build­ing roads, hoard­ing sup­plies and de­ploy­ing a large num­ber of troops in the area. “This is by no means for peace,” Geng said.

Mis­trust be­tween the gi­ant neigh­bors goes back cen­turies and the pair fought a brief war in 1962 in In­dia’s bor­der state of Arunachal Pradesh. The re­cent es­ca­la­tion of China’s rhetoric was “gen­uinely trou­bling,” Rory Med­calf, head of Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Col­lege, told AFP. “It sug­gests that diplo­matic con­ver­sa­tions, in­clud­ing among high-level na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers, are fail­ing to find a face-sav­ing way for the two pow­ers to with­draw their forces,” he said.

The plateau is strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant as it gives China ac­cess to the so-called “chicken neck”—a thin strip of land con­nect­ing In­dia’s north­east­ern states with the rest of the coun­try. De­spite the heated war of words, other an­a­lysts played down the pos­si­bil­ity of an armed clash. “The point of th­ese state­ments isn’t that war is im­mi­nent; rather, they’re an at­tempt to fig­ure out how to not go to war with­out los­ing face,” Shen Dingli, vice dean of Fu­dan Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, told AFP.

“Nei­ther side wants to go to war, but China and In­dia are act­ing like two un­happy lit­tle chil­dren.” China has rolled out a mas­sive new global in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram known as the “One Belt, One Road” ini­tia­tive, which it presents as a peace­ful de­vel­op­ment pol­icy to con­nect Chi­nese com­pa­nies to new mar­kets around the world. Crit­ics see it as a geopo­lit­i­cal pow­er­play.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is set to meet In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at a sum­mit of BRICS na­tions in the Chi­nese city of Xi­a­men in early Septem­ber and has said he hopes for greater co­op­er­a­tion within the bloc. But he is also gear­ing up for a key party congress later this year, at which he is ex­pected to fur­ther con­sol­i­date his grip on power-mak­ing him un­will­ing to ap­pear weak by back­ing down in the cur­rent dis­pute, said pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor Yvonne Chiu, who re­searches China’s mil­i­tary at Hong Kong Univer­sity. Chiu said China was test­ing “how much they can get away with, in a re­gion that is un­likely to draw the in­volve­ment of other ma­jor pow­ers such as the US.”

This file photo taken on July 10, 2008 shows a Chi­nese sol­dier (L) ges­tur­ing next to an In­dian sol­dier at the Nathu La bor­der cross­ing be­tween In­dia and China in In­dia’s north­east­ern Sikkim state. —AFP

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