China ups the ante in stand­off with In­dia

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Bei­jing, China - 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 De­fence 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 meas- ures’ to safe­guard its in­ter­ests.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said on 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.

‘Gen­uinely trou­bling’

Mis­trust be­tween the gi­ant neigh­bours 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 ad­vi­sors, are fail­ing to find a face­sav­ing 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 pro­gramme 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.

(AFP)

In­dian (right) and Chi­nese sol­diers se­cure a barbed wire fence at the Nathu La bor­der cross­ing in In­dia’s Sikkim state

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