In border standoff with China, ‘India has got itself into a fine mess’

Irshad Salim — Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a standoff in a desolate region of the Himalayas that is also claimed by India’s ally Bhutan — a landlocked Buddhist kingdom and region’s second least populous nation after the Maldives.

Over 40 Indian border troops and 1 bulldozer are said to be still illegally staying in the Chinese territory as of end of July, says Chinese foreign ministry report Peoples Daily China along with a news picture (above).

Beijing says it will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests, as the protracted month-long border row between the two Asian giants rumbles on.

Analysts say recent developments have wide strategic implications – pointing to how Asia is increasingly being defined by the China-India rivalry and the renewed tensions between the two.

The United States, India’s “natural ally”, has maintained a baffling silence on the Doklam dispute, writes South China Morning Post.

Pakistan, China’s all-weather friend — China calls the relationship ‘Iron Brothers’, said this week, “both China and Pakistan have disputes on borders with India but the recent border standoff between China and India at Donglang has changed the security situation in the region.”

China maintains that the trespass by Indian border troops into Chinese territory took place at the undisputed Sikkim section, defined by a Sino-British treaty relating to Sikkim and Tibet in 1890. A Chinese spokesman was confident enough to quote what Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to premier Zhou Enlai on September 26, 1959, that: “There is no dispute over the boundary between Sikkim and Xi Zang, China”. The Indian government tactically avoided mentioning the 1890 convention recently, but stated that China unilaterally violated a 2012 agreement on the tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries.

Bhutan is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, India in the south, the Sikkim state of India the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, and the Arunachal Pradesh region in the east.

The stand-off between the troops in the Doklam area of the Sikkim section of the China-India border since June 18 shows no sign of abating. The question is: who will blink first?

The stakes are high for both India and China but, “New Delhi’s moral disadvantages in the issue – including its stance towards Bhutan, a sovereign state – weaken its position,” says Zhou Bo, an honorary fellow with Center of China-American Defense Relations, Academy of Military Science, PLA, China.

Sourabh Gupta, a senior Asia-Pacific international relations policy specialist with 15 years of Washington, D.C.-based experience in a think-tank and political risk research says, India has got itself into a fine mess. It’s time to get out and let China and Bhutan work it out.

“India is militarily engaging a state actor from the soil of a third country over a piece of land its partner country does not even control. Not even the mighty US does that, Gupta wrote in his recent article.

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