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Game of Territory: India vs. China

Border scuffles between India and China have long history but the latest spat has the potential to spiral into the conflict between the two rising Asian powers armed with nuclear weapons. The tension between two countries has escalated after June over a patch of disputed territory in Dokalam region at the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China. India and Bhutan consider the region to be the Bhutanese territory; China claims the territory as its own.

Bhutan being a traditional close ally of India, often receives financial and military assistance from India. According to ex-Indian army officials, New Delhi sent reinforcement supporting Bhutan’s claim on the disputed land and believed to stop the Chinese to build the extraterritorial road.

Beijing claims the Indian troops are occupying its soil and demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops from the disputed territory. But both Bhutan and India maintain the area in question is Bhutanese territory. Troops from both the countries are reported to stationed 15 kilometers away as per initial media reports but some satellite images shows that they are as close as 3 kilometers away.

The political establishment should make sure that the war should be the last course of action and not used as an attempt to give voice to public opinion or outcry.

In support of its claim, Chinese officials say India’s intervention amounted to a provocation, violating an 1890 treaty with British Raj that appears to grant China access to the region and seemingly endorsed by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to his Chinese counterpart. Although India says the letter does not clear the Nehru’s position about the disputed territory and China should maintain the territorial status quo.

It is the longest standoff between the two nations after 1962, when tensions over Tibet and its border dispute sparked a brief war from which China emerged victorious. The China’s state run media are bolstering the government’s stern statements. The Global Times newspaper printed a furious editorial warning India of China’s military might. “The Indian military can choose to return to its territory with dignity, or be kicked out of the area by Chinese soldiers,” it said. Though India says its troops in Bhutan are in “non-combative mode”, the rhetoric on both sides is growing increasingly pugilistic. India’s army chief, Bipin Rawat, has said that India is ready to fight a “two and half front war” – referring to Pakistan, China and against the country’s various internal insurgencies.

Hopes for a discussion between Modi and Xi on the Doklam dispute on the sidelines of the G-20 summit were scuppered after Indian media reported that the government had not requested a one-on-one meeting. Instead, Xi and Modi will meet among leaders from other G-20 countries to discuss international issues. India was especially sensitive to China’s encroachment near its Bhutanese border because it brought Chinese troops uncomfortably close to a section of Indian territory called the “chicken’s neck”, a thin corridor which, if broached, could cut Delhi off from its northeastern states.

But all said and done about the current circumstances how different they might be from the 1962 war and how correct India’s stand and action this time. The political establishment should make sure that the war should be the last course of action and not used as an attempt to give voice to public opinion or outcry. Especially with the Army already engaged in the northern part of the country dealing with Pakistan at the border as well as in Kashmir fighting insurgencies.

This war if happened will not only have adverse effect on the economy of both the countries but also the world. The best available option which is not realized by both the governments would be to ensure a mutual retreat from the front and revert to the position before the standoff. Start a fresh and straightforward diplomatic discussion with the Chinese about the disputed territory and the issues related to the whole of the border. Listen to the voice of the soldiers who would willingly fight the war for the country and even sacrifice their lives, know the value of peace the best.

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