Monday 18th October 2021

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  • Military clashes possible as border standoff drags on: expert

    The graphics shows an appendix released in the document titled “The Facts and China’s Position Concerning the Indian Border Troops’ Crossing of the China-India Boundary in the Sikkim Sector into the Chinese Territory.” (Xinhua/Qu Zhendong)

    China will not allow the military standoff between China and India in Doklam to last for too long, and there may be a small-scale military operation to expel Indian troops within two weeks, Chinese experts said after six ministries and institutions made remarks on the incident within the past 24 hours.

    From Thursday to Friday, two ministries and four institutions, including the Chinese foreign ministry, the defense ministry, the Chinese Embassy in India and the People’s Daily, released statements or commentary on the military standoff between China and India in  Doklam, Tibet Autonomous Region. The standoff has lasted for almost two months now, and there is still no end in sight.

    China urged India to immediately pull back the trespassing troops to the Indian side of the boundary and called on them to swiftly address the situation in a proper manner to restore peace and tranquility in the border region, Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson for the defense ministry said in a statement posted on its website late Thursday night.

    “The series of remarks from the Chinese side within a 24-hour period sends a signal to India that there is no way China will tolerate the Indian troops’ incursion into Chinese territory for too long. If India refuses to withdraw, China may conduct a small-scale military operation within two weeks,” said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

    Hu said that the military operation would aim to seize Indian personnel illegally lingering in Chinese territory or to expel them. “The Chinese side will inform the Indian Foreign Ministry before its operation,” Hu said.

    China Central Television reported Friday that the Tibet military region conducted live fire exercises in recent days in Tibet. “The exercise began at 4 am. A group swiftly took ground and loaded ammunition. The firing began just after dawn … the army used different ways to attack the same target,” CCTV reported.

    “The exercises are a sign that China could use military means to end the standoff and the chances of doing so are increasing as the Indian side is still saying one thing and doing another,” Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times.

    Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said Thursday that war was not a solution and wisdom is to resolve issues diplomatically, but she also noted that “military readiness is always there as the military is meant to fight wars,” the Indian Express reported.

    The patience of China and its public is wearing thin, Zhao said, and China does not want the dispute to impact the upcoming BRICS summit, which India will attend. The summit is to be held in September in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province.

    Bearing all the consequences

    “India, which has stirred up the incident, should bear all the consequences. And no matter how the standoff ends, Sino-Indian ties have been severely damaged and strategic distrust will linger,” Hu said.

    On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry issued a document titled “The Facts and China’s Position Concerning the Indian Border Troops’ Crossing of the China-India Boundary in the Sikkim Sector into the Chinese Territory.”  It says that road building in the Doklam area aims to improve local transportation, help local herders and facilitate border patrols.

    China notified India about the road works through the border meeting mechanism on May 18 and June 8, but it did not respond, the Chinese foreign ministry said Thursday.

    “Road building in Chinese territory is to facilitate border patrols and the lives of herders. But the Indian side has over-interpreted it as a threat to its northeast side. And India, which considers South Asia as its own sphere of influence, dislikes Chinese involvement in the area,” Hu said.

    Zhao said that if the current standoff ends in a military clash, bilateral ties would suffer for at least five years, and India may stir up troubles with China, which may cause tensions among China’s other neighbors.

    “India has adopted an immature policy toward China in recent years. Its development is not at the same level as China’s. It only wants to seek disputes in an area which originally has no disputes to gain bargaining chips,” Hu said

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