THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 9 AUGUST, 2017
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: An editorial that appeared in China Daily has taken a categorical stand on the Doklam standoff, with its headline not mincing any words in urging “New Delhi to come to its senses while it has time.”
The editorial reads: “As the standoff in Donglang between Chinese and Indian border troops enters its seventh week, the window for a peaceful solution is closing.
The countdown to a clash between the two forces has begun, and the clock is ticking away the time to what seems to be an inevitable conclusion.
But it doesn't have to be so. Beijing has time and again sent the message that to avoid conflict all India needs to do is withdraw all its troops from an area that based on historical treaties, historically expressed agreements and long-exercised control both have long agreed is Chinese territory.
The Ministry of Defense has warned India not to harbor any illusions and underestimate the resolve of the People's Liberation Army to defend China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is a "bottom line" to the restraint shown by China to India's trespass, as a ministry spokesman said.
Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear will have got the message. Yet New Delhi refuses to come to its senses and pull its troops back to its own side of the border.
Different from the previous standoffs that happened at parts of the border contested by both countries, the military deployment by India this time, which even in its own words is on foreign soil — India says Donglang is territory disputed by China and Bhutan — has sabotaged long-standing agreements and understandings the two sides have worked hard to build over the years.
India's justifications for this — its own security concerns and its support for Bhutan — do not stand up to scrutiny, as made clear by the position paper released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and do not excuse its illegal act.
India's audacity in challenging China's sovereignty may come from its own sense of inferiority and insecurity in the face of China's rapid rise to prominence in the region, but betting on Beijing backing away from a fight because of its desire for a peaceful neighborhood is a risk, as it ignores the fact that the foundation for that is countries respecting China's territorial integrity.
India's trespassing is changing the long and legally established status quo in the area and is thus an act that China has no option but to resist.
Yet being at loggerheads serves neither side any good, and a violent clash is still avoidable, even at this late stage.
He who stirs up trouble should end it, as a Chinese proverb goes. India should withdraw its troops while the clock is still ticking. It will only have itself to blame if its stubborn refusal to heed the voice of reason leads to consequences it regrets.”
The editorial is the latest in a string of angry rhetoric that is appearing in Chinese media over the past few weeks. In an editorial, the Global Times ridiculed an Indian media report that quoted experts on this side of the border saying that chances of war with China were minimal. "Fifty-five years have passed, but the Indian government is as naive as it ever was. The lessons of the 1962 war didn't last for half a century," Global Times said.
“Of course China doesn't want to risk a war and hopes that peace could return and China and India can get along well. But if Indian troops continue to linger on Chinese soil, it will be quite another matter,” the editorial stated.
“India has lost in both the legal and moral senses. It also lacks strength compared with China. The outcome of the standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in the Doklam area is fixed. China has not resorted to a war because it hopes New Delhi can make a rational choice rather than China daring not to take action. If New Delhi really keeps the faith that China will not take military action under any circumstances, then its analysis is not based on the principles of international politics and military science. If the Narendra Modi government continues ignoring the warning coming from a situation spiraling out of control, countermeasures from China will be unavoidable,” it said.
There has been a lot of coverage on the issue in Global Times, with the publication taking on a clearly aggressive stance when it comes to the prospective of war. This line appeared in other publications as well. The official agency, Xinhua, carried a commentary by You Dongxiao, an associate professor with the International College of Defense at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Armyou Dongxiao to say that for China there is no other solution other than the “unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the region”.
Referring to sources based reports in the Indian media suggesting that this was all Chinese posturing, and that Beijing did not want to escalate the conflct, the professor again reiterates, with some vehemence, that while it is true that China does not want a war, it will never “back down in the face of forreign military pressure.
The current crisis is over the Doklam plateau -- as India perceived China’s decision to build a road leading upto it as a geographical threat to its territorial integrity. As India sent soldiers into the region, China issued a strict ultimatum -- threatening India with strict consequences unless all soldiers are removed. In a position paper released on Doklam, China alleged that India had removed all but 40 of 400 soldiers stationed there, but went on to add that these “trespassing soldiers” must be removed. The position paper states, “the trespassing Indian border troops, reaching as many as over 400 people at one point, have put up three tents and advanced over 180 meters into the Chinese territory. As of the end of July, there were still over 40 Indian border troops and one bulldozer illegally staying in the Chinese territory.”
The paper essentially said that India has no right to interfere in matters that are between China and Bhutan, as the territory has been a matter of dispute between the two countries. India used its relationship with Bhutan to justify the presence of its troops -- maintaining that Indian troops were in Bhutanese territory with permission from the Bhutanese state. China, however, has categorically said that it considers the presence of Indian troops in Doklam to be a trespass into its own territory, and has told India -- in no uncertain terms -- to withdraw.
Chinese defence ministry also made a statement, warning that its "restraint" has a "bottom line". The statement followed Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj’s statement that the peace and tranquillity of the India-China boundary constitutes an important prerequisite to the bilateral relations between the two countries. "Since the incident occurred, China has shown utmost goodwill and sought to communicate with India through diplomatic channels to resolve the incident. Chinese armed forces have also shown a high level of restraint with an eye to the general bilateral relations and the regional peace and stability," Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson for the Chinese defence ministry said, adding that “However, goodwill has its principles and restraint has its bottom line.”
Another Chinese official brought up the contentious matter of Kashmir, saying, “We think it is not doable for the Indian side to use tri-junction as an excuse… The Indian side has also many trijunctions. What if we use the same excuse and enter the Kalapani region between China, India and Nepal or even into the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.” Wang Wenli, Deputy Director General of Boundary and Ocean Affairs from Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that “using the trijunction as an excuse does not hold water at all. It will only cause more trouble.” "Until the Indian side withdraws from the Chinese territory, there will be no substantive talks between us," Wang Weli said.
Meanwhile, the Indian media vacillates between chest thumping as well as playing down the threat of the Chinese. The Chinese media, however, has taken a clearly aggressive stand, going as far as to bring up the 1962 war which remains a humiliating soft spot for New Delhi.