For over a month, China and India’s border dispute at Doklam in the Sikkim section has been threatening to lead to a full-scale war, which de-facto frightens Asian Countries. Both countries deployed army and military equipments in disputed border. China has insisted that the Doklam stand-off is unlike any other India-China border dispute. They threat to India using Communist party’s regulated media Global Times. India also makes counter threat to China. Situation stands here that, the repetition of 1962 war between China and India in 2017. Many in the world, particularly in Asian countries, are not surprised at the belligerent attitude of China towards India at the present moment. Several Asian countries themselves have experienced China’s hostile attitude in recent times. They think what India faces today in its relation to China, they will face tomorrow.
On June 16, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) construction party entered Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. Doklam, on the edge of Chumbi valley and adjacent to the India-China-Bhutan tri junction is emphatically Bhutanese territory which China has been claiming with military muscle power and propaganda against the tiny and weak Himalayan Kingdom for decades now. The Chinese foreign ministry and official media have stated that Doklam is “indisputably” Chinese sovereign territory. But India has pointed out that it had warned China that the road would be seen as a serious security issue because it gives Beijing access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a narrow piece of land linking mainland India with its seven north-eastern states.
A Bhutanese army patrol tried to dissuade the PLA from construction telling them to withdraw. The Bhutanese government through its embassy in New Delhi issued a protest on June 20 to the Delhi Embassy in New Delhi. It is noted that the two countries do not have diplomatic representation in each other’s countries and work through their embassies in New Delhi. Again on June 29, The Bhutanese foreign ministry statement said that the construction of the road in Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between the two countries.
Several agreements exist between India and Bhutan including providing security to Bhutan. Both governments have been in close consultations on the June 6 incident. In coordination with the Bhutanese government Indian border personnel who were present in the general area of Doklam approached the Chinese construction team telling them to desist. PLA personnel destroyed temporary bunkers after Indian personnel. There was some jostling between Indian and Chinese personnel. China wants Indian personnel to withdraw from the area, a demand that India is unlikely to accept. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on 20 July, “The Chinese government accepted that diplomatic channels are open but repeated it will hold talks with India only after Indian troops are removed.”
It is important to note that China has unleashed its ‘three warfares’ strategy in full, is as follows:
It is being witnessed in the Chinese media along with the foreign ministry’s media briefings. This includes Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang’s statement that brought in the Kashmir issue and exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops across the LOC as ‘undermining regional stability’. A media commentary also suggested that if Indian troops could enter Doklam, then a third party could intervene in Kashmir.
The recent live fire exercise in the Tibet-Qinghai plateau at a height of 5000 feet and telecast over Chinese Central Television, suggesting China is prepared for a war in the Himalayan region, is to strike fear in the hearts of the Indian troops. A report of Chinese T-96 tanks training at high altitudes suggests Chinese attacks could extend to other parts of the long disputed Indo-Chinese border.
Creating historical texts to argue Chinese claims. There is saying “Use the past to serve the present”, which means reconstruct history.
Chinese foreign ministry spokes persons claimed that the 1890 tripartite treaty between British Indian government, the Chinese government and Bhutan had settled the boundary between India, Sikkim and Tibet, and that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had confirmed it to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in a letter of March 1959. But the Chinese official was quoting selectively from the 1890 treaty and Nehru’s letter. Nehru had only confirmed that the border of northern Sikkim, and the tri-junction between Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet was still to be negotiated. Since then, the Chinese have desisted from voicing this line.
In that situation, both countries are mentioned the 1962 war between India and China, which also emerging warning that events of 1962 could also be repeated in 2017. Many in the world, particularly in Asian countries are not surprised at the belligerent attitude of China towards India at the present moment. Several Asian countries themselves have experienced China’s hostile attitude in recent times. China’s conflict with neighbors with regard to South China Sea, Senkaku Islands are well known. Neighboring countries now have developed a sense of fear and apprehension about China’s attitude towards them and about its long term intentions. China seems to believe that might is right and aggressive posture and militant approaches can make it an unquestioned super power in the world.
World observers think that China has been showing aggressive attitude towards its neighbors, mainly to browbeat them and make them fall in line and accept China’s unquestioned leadership. Observers also believe that China will not go for a big war with India or any other Asian country immediately, despite its veiled threats as China’s economy and its strength is dependent on trade across the world. But, China could strive to ensure that it would remain prominent in the scene and feared in Asia to psychologically prepare the neighboring countries to accept China’s claimed superiority.
China thinks that it has made the USA and European countries dependent on China because of huge investments. They also think that China is dependent on Europe and Western countries due to the market outlet and technology support that it needs. China has concluded that because of such inter-dependence, the USA and West European countries cannot afford to take any offensive actions against China, even if China would involve itself in serious conflict with Asian countries like India and Japan. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that if any conflict occurs India’s longtime enemy Pakistan will potentially helps to China. China has definite expansionist plans and it will use its economic and military muscle power to reach it’s objectives of expanding its territories, shake the confidence of the neighboring countries by browbeating them and in the process dominate Asia.
As China has chosen India as the immediate target in its expansionist plans and strategies, India now faces a difficult scenario. India is wondering whether it should appease China and buy peace or confront China and force peace. With 30% of the population in India remaining below poverty line and with an extremely urgent need to grow its economy and industry. India would not want to divest its energy and resources in conflict with China. But, if China has alternate plans and wants to continue to have friction with India as a part of its long term expansionist strategies, then India will have little option than to fight back, with whatever consequences. With two hostile neighbors of China and Pakistan, peace in India has been disturbed already.
India certainly would expect US and European countries to exert pressure on China to make it desist from its aggressive postures. It remains to be seen whether they will protect India’s interests at the cost of their interests in China. Beijing calculates that US and European countries would remain self centered and would not go beyond providing lip support to India, that would enable China to have its way. The world is watching and particularly other Asian countries are watching with great anxiety and apprehensions on China’s next move.
Writer: Journalist and geopolitical analyst