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China-India border dispute

China will protect border with India ‘at all costs’

Warning over territorial dispute with India is harshest yet, but analysts see it as bid to improve Beijing’s bargaining position at a security summit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 8:48am

China on Monday issued its ­strongest warning yet to India over their month-long border ­dispute, saying Beijing would ­protect its sovereignty “at all costs”.

Observers believe that China’s stepping up of its rhetoric, which came before a high-level security meeting that involves both Chinese and Indian security officials, gives Beijing more bargaining power in the talks with New Delhi.

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Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian also said that China planned to strengthen its “targeted deployment and exercises” along the disputed border, and that India should “have no ­illusions” about its military’s capabilities or commitment.

Wu’s comments came just a week after state broadcaster CCTV reported that Chinese troops had taken part in a military exercise using live ammunition on the Tibetan Plateau.

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The location was not far from Doklam, where Chinese and ­Indian forces remain locked in a stand-off sparked by a road construction project in a disputed border area shared with Bhutan.

Speaking just a week ahead of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, Wu said: “We urge the Indian side not to take any chances or hold any illusions.” He added that China had strengthened its capabilities in safeguarding its national sovereignty over the past 90 years. “It’s easier to shake a mountain than to shake the PLA,” he said.

President Xi Jinping will observe war games in a military base in Inner Mongolia, the largest in China, to mark the anniversary, the Post has learned. Wu said an announcement would be made “at an appropriate time”.

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Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said later in the day that Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval would be among the guests hosted by Beijing during a security officials meeting of the BRICS countries on Thursday and Friday, also involving Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who along with Doval is the special representative on the border issues, will also attend.

Lu refused to confirm whether the border issue would be discussed at the meeting.

“China hopes to maintain the peace and stability of the China-India border area, but certainly will not make any compromise on issues of territorial sovereignty,” Reuters cited Lu as saying.

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Wang Dehua, an specialist on South Asia at the Shanghai ­Municipal Centre for International Studies, said the remarks from the defence ministry could be seen as a bottom line drawn by Beijing for India ahead of the talks.

Ministry spokesman Wu also said that China’s road project in the Doklam region was “appropriate and legal”, adding that it was New Delhi that had violated Chinese sovereignty.

He reiterated Beijing’s position that the withdrawal of Indian troops was the “prerequisite and foundation” for peace talks.

“China is warning India against misjudging the international situation and repeating the mistakes made by Nehru in thinking that China would not fight back,” said Wang, referring to the 1962 Sino-Indian war overseen by former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Manoranjan Mohanty, the former head of the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies, said rhetoric had created a charged atmosphere in both countries, but that official interactions had gone on that would help contain the crisis.