Sino-Indian relations is entering a new era of crisis management where Indian leadership should seek to fix stagnated ties, a Chinese expert warned on Sunday after India’s defense minister visited the border and expressed her “goodwill.”
As Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the Nathu La Himalayan mountain pass that connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on Saturday, she waved at Chinese soldiers across the border, the Indian Express reported.
“Acknowledged a row of Chinese soldiers from across the fence who were taking pictures on my reaching Nathu La,” she tweeted.
The greeting sent a goodwill signal towards mending bilateral ties and putting relations back on track toward normality, Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times.
Ties between China and India have been struggling in the last three years and China’s image in India has even been demonized in some cases, said Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies in Beijing.
The Doklam standoff shows that China and India have witnessed growing mistrust and misunderstanding and it has exerted a massive negative impact on cooperation between the two countries, said Qian.
“Though leaders of the two countries are exploring more cooperation, the focus and priority of the two countries is to avoid friction and conflict,” Hu said.
According to Qian, the Indian government should show more determination for improving ties as its current Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys advantages towards achieving that goal.
Sitharaman was accorded a guard of honor on her arrival at Nathu La. Chief of Eastern Command Lt Gen Abhay Krishna briefed her about the Indian army’s security preparedness along the border.
Her scheduled aerial survey of Doklam and forward posts in border areas of Sikkim was canceled on Saturday due to bad weather, said a statement issued by the Department of Information and Public Relations, government of Sikkim.
Sitharaman has, however, undertaken an aerial survey of Gangtok and surrounding areas from the new Greenfield Pakyong Airport in east Sikkim, the statement added.
India’s NDTV reported on October 5 that the Chinese army is back to building a road on the Doklam Plateau, just 10 kilometers from the location of the last conflict.
However, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said the next day that the status quo prevailed in the Doklam region and there had been “no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the 28th August disengagement.”
“India’s army has a deep-rooted perception that China is a security rival for India and the army is taking a chance by bargaining for more support in the national defense budget,” said Qian.