China-India border dispute

Border row: China makes fleshed-out stand ‘in push to end’ Himalayan stand-off with India

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 12:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 10:52am

China fleshed out its stand in the Himalayan border row with India on Wednesday, saying the number of Indian troops in what Beijing claims as its territory had dropped to 40 from a peak of 400.

In the position paper, Beijing also urged New Delhi to “unconditionally and immediately” withdraw its forces.

But while Beijing’s overall stand remained unchanged, the paper detailed China’s take on the events leading up to the row on the Doklam, or Donglang, plateau, where the southern end of Tibet meets Bhutan in the east and Sikkim in India in the west.

It said 270 armed Indian border forces personnel crossed 100 metres into the Chinese side with bulldozers and tried to obstruct a road China was building two days after construction began.

“Over the following days the number of Indian trespassers reached 400 with two bulldozers and three tents, and reached as deep as 180 metres [into Chinese territory],” the paper said.

“By the end of July, 40 Indian people and one bulldozer remained.”

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Chinese analysts said the release of the position paper suggested China wanted to end the stand-off, preferably before the BRICS summit in Xiamen next month, when leaders of both countries are due to meet.

The paper also came as the foreign ministers of India and China were in the Philippines for meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the paper was meant to “further explain to the international community the truth about Indian army’s intrusion, and fully state the position of the Chinese government”.

The paper also repeated Beijing’s contention that the Indian move challenged the sovereignty of Bhutan, which is guided by India in foreign policy. It proposed direct talks with Bhutan on the issue.

India said China’s road building, which would give China access to India’s strategically vulnerable “Chicken’s Neck”, was a breach of the status quo on the border and posed a serious threat to its national security.

It also said its troops were in the area at the request of Bhutan.

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Zhao Gancheng, head of South Asian studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said that given China had defined the Indian move as illegal encroachment, there were only two choices – the Indians had to retreat or the Chinese would expel them.

“To release a statement like this is to further make it clear that if India stays on, China would have to take some action,” Zhao said.

Zhao said that although 90 per cent of the Indian forces appeared to have pulled back, it did not mean India was retreating.

“They can come and go easily at any time. It is not a matter of numbers, the point is there are still Indians remaining,” he said.

Last week Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met President Xi Jinping in Beijing but they failed to resolve the dispute.

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Du Youkang, director of the Centre for South Asia Studies at Fudan University, said dialogue between the two sides had continued throughout the dispute and neither wanted the row to escalate.

“But the domestic pressure on the Indian government is making the decision [to withdraw] very difficult,” Du said.

“I think they are also trying to think of a way out as soon as possible. The stand-off has dragged on for too long and it does nobody any good.”