As the Chinese public celebrated the National Day holidays, the Sino-Indian border issue was again thrust into the media limelight in India. According to Indian media outlets, the Chinese army resumed road construction in Doklam, 10 kilometers from the location of the last standoff. But India’s Ministry of External Affairs later responded that “the status quo prevails in the area. Any suggestion, on the contrary, is incorrect.”
Over the weekend, India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the Sino-Indian border in Sikkim, Bhutan and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. A newly constructed airport that she inspected during the visit, the nearest to China’s border, will be put into use in November. But her aggressive gesture seems to have been diluted by her friendly interactions with Chinese soldiers in Nathula. Video released by the Indian Defense Ministry shows that she acknowledged the soldiers with a traditional namaste greeting.
Indian media frequently hypes “the next round of standoffs” between Beijing and New Delhi but Indian authorities don’t seem to support such speculation.
The Indian reports about China’s road building in the Doklam region are questionable as it is not the right season for construction work. Doklam is Chinese territory and under effective control and supervision of the Chinese government. During the Doklam face-off, Beijing intensified efforts to develop infrastructure in the region and road construction there will be a long-term trend.
Some Indian nationalists over-estimate India’s strength and rights, assuming New Delhi can bark orders across the border at Beijing.
India’s concerns about the Siliguri Corridor’s security are understandable, but New Delhi cannot mess around. China is also concerned about the transport route security across the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca, but Beijing has taken no coercive measures to achieve its aims.
New Delhi needs to exercise restraint. It can only strengthen military infrastructure on its own soil when and where international law permits. It should consider deepening strategic security communication with China, which can enhance mutual trust between China and India.
China advocates good-neighborliness and exercises enormous restraint and patience during the Doklam crisis. India should try to keep its security concerns at a reasonable level, but it would be hysterical if New Delhi risked peace and development for security worries.
China is not willing to see that ties with India consume too much energy and India is not a major focus for China’s strategic ambition. Maintaining Sino-Indian friendship is a strategic instinct and a rational choice for China.
China’s infrastructure construction in the Doklam region is logical, but India’s strong reaction is eccentric. Indian society is sensitive and arrogant, and Indian media is amplifying nationalism. India must overcome its paranoia and China has no obligation to indulge India’s capriciousness.