BORDER issues have always remained a matter of rift between countries particularly in South Asian region. India with its particular hegemonic mindset has developed apertures in its relations with China too. In a past one and half month, China and India have developed tensions on Doklam area. Doklam is a narrow plateau lying in the tri-junction region China, India and Bhutan. It is considered as a disputed territory between China and Bhutan. Doklam is situated roughly 15 kilometres southeast of the Nathu La pass that connects India and Tibet and about 30 kilometres southwest of the Dramana Chhu (river) area as disputed between Bhutan and China.
In June 2017, Doka La became the site of a stand-off between the armed forces of India and China following an attempt by China to extend a road from Yadong further southward on the Doklam plateau. Unlike China and Bhutan, India does not have a claim on Doklam; however, India supports Bhutan’s claim on the territory. Recently, Indian troops crossed into the territory in dispute between China and Bhutan in an attempt to prevent the road construction. Because of Indian troops placement there was a standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops, with both of them sending reinforcements at the border area.
Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat on the deployment of army troops stated that India is ready for “two and a half war front”. In response to Indian Army Chief statement, the People’s Liberation Army spokesperson Col Wu Qian warned to “stop clamouring for war” and termed India as “extremely irresponsible”. In response to this, Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley hit back at Beijing and asserted that “the India of 2017 is different from what it used to be 55 years ago. If they are trying to remind us, the situation in 1962 was different and India of 2017 is different”. Asking India to withdraw, China said the trespassing of Indian troops in Doklam was a betrayal of a treaty signed in 1890, and India had used Bhutan as an excuse to violate the international border between the two countries.
A day before the G20 summit was supposed to begin in Hamburg, Germany, China dismissed the prospect of a meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and PM Narendra Modi saying the atmosphere is not right for a bilateral meeting. China once again demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops, citing it as a pre-condition for any talks to take place between the two countries. At an event marking the 90th anniversary of People’s Liberation Army, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China has the confidence to defeat all invasions. No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests.
In a fresh warning to India, Chinese state media People’s Daily has said that India should not underestimate China’s resolve to defend its territorial sovereignty. According to media reports, Indian border troops had crossed the China-India boundary in the Sikkim sector into Chinese territory and that it was totally illegal. It said China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests. Media reports highlight that what India did can be defined as illegal and it is nothing but an Indian sense of creating trouble everywhere. The convention signed between Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet states that Doklam was indisputably Chinese territory.
Having border stand off and eye ball to eye ball situation India’s military build-up near Chinese border shows that the situation has become a flashpoint. It has been revealed that the Indian Army has moved over 100 Russian tanks T-72 to Ladakh, a disputed border between Indian state of Kashmir and Tibet under Chinese rule. In addition, Indian Navy has sent three warships to the disputed South China Sea to plan training with Malaysian Navy, showing that there’s nothing strange with seeing any military conflicts between the two countries. The reason behind such confrontation between the two countries is not complicated. First, their disputed borders are the major cause of tensions between them. They even had a war against each other 50 years ago, but failed to make any progress on the border dispute. Besides, the gap between the positions of China and India over Tibet is wide. While China sees Tibet as one of its local governments, India sees it as a government in exile.
There are certain developments according to sources which say that Indian troops have started moving away from border and only few are left and Bhutan has admitted rights of China on Doklam. Now if this progress on border situation is true then it depicts false claims of Indian hegemony and intruding nature in matters of others countries. India very well knows the condition of its army and fighting capabilities and just those false assertions were to show off and vaunt. Particularly while seeing China’s progress with other South Asian countries it tried to maintain its supremacy with its dominating attitude but fore sighting the war with China and knowing its forces strength it silently has started to withdraw troops. India surely is not capable of long military stand-off and that’s why while picking fight with China it concluded results timely and decided not to buckle up with China.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.