Two weeks ago, Indian military officials announced with expressions of shock that a platoon of Chinese soldiers had crossed the de facto border between the giant neighbors and set up camp an unprecedented six miles into Indian-claimed territory, sparking a still-unresolved standoff.
China’s Foreign Ministry said last week that its troops were patrolling on the Chinese side of the border and “never trespassed the line.”
Two Chinese patrols came on foot, two more arrived in military vehicles and a Chinese helicopter flew overhead. With all the activity, the Indian authorities failed to notice until the next morning that about 30 Chinese soldiers had pitched three tents in an area both countries claim. The Chinese, who had with them a few high-altitude guard dogs, responded by erecting two more tents and raising a sign saying, “You are in Chinese side.”
As the dispute enters its third week, alarm in the Indian capital is growing. At a Thursday news briefing, Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told the New York Times, “There is no doubt that in the entire country this is a matter of concern.”
India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was cited as saying in media reports Tuesday that there were no plans to cancel his visit to China, in connection with preparations for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s official travel to India later in May. But the minister also appeared to hedge his position.
“Can I cancel my visit? [The] government has to decide. There is no such decision and there is no reason we should do that, but you know one week is a long time in politics,” Khurshid told reporters, according to a Press Trust of India account that was carried by multiple newspapers.
Military officials from the two sides on Tuesday met for the third time since the allegations.
“As differing perceptions exist about the Line of Actual Control, which is yet to be demarcated, patrolling parties of the two sides usually go up to a certain point and return, but it is for the first time that Chinese troops have set up five tents and stayed put for the past two weeks,” Indian newspaper, The Hindu, reported Wednesday.
“It may not rise to the level of a crisis, but the present turmoil on the Sino-Indian border is the most worrying in a long time,” Harsh Pant, a professor of defense studies at King’s College in London, wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
The dispute is playing out hundreds of miles from what has long been seen as the most contested area between the countries — a stretch of land that separates Tibet, occupied for decades by China, and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese soldiers crossed that part of the border during the 1962 war and took over a swath of Arunachal Pradesh, including the culturally Tibetan area known as Tawang, before decamping and returning to China. In 2009, China became more vocal in its claims to parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
The risk is not that there will be a repeat of the Sino-Indian war anytime soon. It’s true that the simmering, unresolved border conflict makes unforeseen clashes possible. However, those who hark back to the days of India’s ignominious defeat in 1962 fail to acknowledge that India’s leaders have a much clearer view of China’s intentions and their own capabilities, according to Wall Street Journal.
The latest spat between India and China is bound to resolve itself this year, one way or another. In six months, snow and bitterly cold weather will make the Chinese encampment very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.
- Chinese incursion leaves India on verge of crisis (stripes.com)
- Chinese soldiers camp ‘inside India’ (bigpondnews.com)
- Chinese incursion leaves India on verge of crisis (foxnews.com)
- Chinese incursion leaves India on verge of crisis (miamiherald.com)
- 2-week Chinese incursion into Indian territory pushes edgy neighbours to brink of crisis (calgaryherald.com)