Danger of India-China border war grows

Danger of India-China border war grows

K. Ratnayake,
Chinese army in recent drill

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Doklam Plateau, a remote ridge in the Himalayan foothills, is continuing, amid growing warnings and threats of an impending military clash.

Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told the country’s parliament Wednesday that its military is ready to meet any challenge and has already demonstrated with its victories over Pakistan in wars in 1965 and 1971 that it has learned the “lessons” of 1962. This was a reference to the month-long 1962 Sino-Indian border in which Beijing gave New Delhi a bloody nose, then ordered its troops to withdraw.

In an even more significant and troubling sign of the escalation of tensions, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MOD) has urgently requested additional funds of Rs. 200 billion ($3.1 billion) from the finance ministry to speed up the procurement of munitions, armaments and other war materiel. This follows on last month’s announcement that the MOD had given Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Sarath Chand special powers to speed up emergency purchases of the ammunition and spare parts needed to wage war.

New Delhi has repeatedly suggested that the Doklam border crisis could be defused by both sides withdrawing their troops from the disputed ridge.

But China is adamant that it is up to India to take the first step, by recalling its forces unilaterally.

Beijing has repeatedly termed India’s actions unprecedentedly provocative. Unlike previous border disputes, the Indian Army is confronting Chinese troops on territory to which New Delhi itself has no claim, but is rather the subject of a dispute between China and the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

Moreover, Beijing disputes India’s claim that it interceded at the request of Bhutan to stop Chinese construction workers from expanding a road on the disputed plateau. Beijing contends that New Delhi acted unilaterally, then leaned on Bhutan, which India has long treated like a protectorate, to join it in protesting the alleged Chinese incursion on its territory. To date, Bhutan’s government has issued only one statement on the almost two-month-old Doklam standoff, and did so close to two weeks after the alleged Chinese incursion began.

Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly served notice that its patience is wearing thin and that it will not allow the standoff to continue indefinitely.