There is a dreadful sense of deja vu about the way the border stand-off appears to be escalating between the two Asian rivals. The The rhetoric from both sides have been full of foreboding and menace. The latest row erupted in mid-June when India opposed China’s attempt to extend a border road through a plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. The plateau, which lies at a junction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, is currently disputed between Beijing and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim over it. India is concerned that if the road is completed, it will give China greater access to India’s strategically vulnerable “chicken’s neck”, a 20km (12-mile) wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the Indian mainland. And since this stand-off began, each side has reinforced its troops and called on the other to back down.
In a latest move, India on Thursday said it is ready to hold talks with China with both sides pulling back their forces to end the standoff along the disputed territory couched high in the Himalayan mountains.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that a 2012 agreement bound China and India to settle the boundary issue with Bhutan.
Her response came as China demanded that Indian forces leave the area to avoid an escalation.
India and China fought a bloody war in 1962.
Speaking in Parliament Thursday, Swaraj said that Chinese forces recently came with bulldozers and excavators with the intent of building infrastructure that would change the status quo. In the past, the Chinese have built temporary roads in the area.
“If China unilaterally changes the status quo of the tri-junction, it becomes a matter of security concern for India,” she said, referring to the area where the three countries meet.
Swaraj said China has been demanding that India withdraw its forces from the area. “If China wants to discuss the matter, both sides should withdraw their forces and talk,’” she said.
She also said that China was becoming “aggressive” with Bhutan following its protest of the Chinese move.
Victor Gao, a former diplomat and once an interpreter for Deng Xiaoping, has said that any other country in China’s situation of seeing foreign (Indian) soldiers on its territory would send troops to drive them out. He says the longer India keeps troops in Doklam the more likely a military confrontation is.
The crisis is expected to be discussed when Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visits Beijing on July 27 and 28 to take part in a security forum under the BRICS group of large developing nations that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.