This Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused India of military buildup along the border of the contested region in Sikkim, where Indian and Chinese troops have been involved in a standoff for almost two months, Reuters reports.
According to Beijing, the Indians have been gathering troops, supplies, and repairing roads near the border with China. Minister Yi further declared that if India truly wants peace, then they should withdraw completely from the area.
According to the Financial Times, Minister Yi also spoke about the history of the People’s Liberation Army and its campaigns to defend the Chinese mainland. This includes the 1962 war in which Beijing humiliated New Delhi.
Such statements come after previous remarks from Chinese military commanders in which they affirmed that if the situation escalates further, then they would be more than capable of defending their territory. Moreover, Indian authorities kept calling for restraint from all parties involved.
In mid-June, Indian troops moved over the border to occupy areas where the Chinese were building a road into the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which had requested help from New Delhi regarding the issue.
According to most sources, around 300 Indian troops moved into territory claimed by China. They were met by a similar number of Chinese soldiers, with both formations remaining in the valley since then, separated by a mere 150 yards.
However, a statement issued this Thursday by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi provides another insight into the event. According to the Indian Express, this document claims that the Indian presence in the disputed area had been reduced to around 40 troops and a bulldozer, which would mean that New Delhi could be accepting some of the Chinese demands in an attempt to deescalate the standoff.
On the other hand, the same document also states that the Indian government had been given a notification ahead of the construction of the road that sparked the incident. This contradicts New Delhi’s version of the events in which the intervention of the Indian Army happened after Chinese military personnel entered Doklam without prior warning.
Both nations have a large and widely disputed border, over 4,000 kilometers long, with main flash points in Kashmir and Sikkim.
The Doklam Plateau, which is located within the Sikkim region, stands at a triple junction of borders, between China, India, and Bhutan, which grants it great strategic valor. New Delhi fears that from there, Beijing could increase its influence over the Indian-aligned Bhutan and maybe launch attacks into India itself in the case of a war.
It should be noticed that south of this area is the so-called “chicken neck,” a choke point that links India to its remote eastern territories, which means that New Delhi is very sensitive about developments in the region.
The geopolitical ambitions of China and India should not be underestimated. These are the most populous nations in the world, as well as great industrial and military powers.
The People’s Republic of China aims at becoming the de facto world power now that it seems that the U.S. is declining. To do this, Beijing has created economic relationships with many countries around the world and has been building roads, railways, ports, and military bases across the Asia-Pacific region to enforce its presence there.
New Delhi, though, has relatively smaller immediate ambitions with similar long-term results. It intends on dominating the Indian Ocean and the important resources and trade routes therein. Beijing circumvented India by forging a close relationship with Pakistan, but it is evident that the countries have become noteworthy geopolitical rivals.
Because of the rivalry between the U.S. and China, there was an approach between Washington and New Delhi. This too is cause of concern for Beijing.
The consensus still seems to be that neither side favors a conflict in spite of the harsh words exchanged by the armies of both nations involved.
This September, China will hold a summit between the BRICS countries, in the city of Xiamen, and there is hope that the Sikkim standoff may be resolved until then. Last week, India’s security adviser, Ajit Doval, met his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, during a security meeting of the BRICS nations, for bilateral talks, the Times of India reports.
The BRICS is a group of major emerging economies, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
[Featured Image by Manish Swarup/AP Images]