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Better late than never


Winton Dong

  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2017-07-31

Email of the writer: dht0620@126.com

On June 26, China solemnly protested that Indian border troops had crossed the Sikkim section of the China-India border into China’s Doklam plateau, the southernmost part of Tibet, in an attempt to obstruct ongoing Chinese road construction in the area.

According to Article 1 of the Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet signed in 1890, the Sikkim section was defined to be Chinese territory. Successive Indian governments have repeatedly honored the treaty in writing as India does not contest the section of the border.

The crossing of the mutually recognized border by India is a serious violation of China’s sovereignty. As India has yet to remove its encroaching troops, a military standoff between the two countries has been going on for more than one month. It is said to be the longest military standoff between the world’s two most populous nations since 1962. China and India went to war in that year because of border disputes, and India was defeated with more than 4,000 Indian soldiers losing their lives.

The long stay of India’s troops in Chinese territory this time has proved their illegal trespass in June was organized and premeditated, which means that India is deliberately disrupting the status quo of the Sikkim section of the China-India border and running against international law. In order to put more pressure on China and to make the situation there from bad to worse, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently lobbied the United States and some other allied countries for support, and even entertained the visiting commander-in-chief of the Burmese army with special hospitality and had joint military exercises with the United States and Japan in the Indian Ocean.

Some bellicose Indian officials even proclaim that India today is different from the India 55 years ago, signifying that its military muscles have grown terrifically since that defeat. To be frank, the same applies to China too, if not more so. According to statistics, China’s GDP in 2016 was five times more than that of neighboring India.

Still water runs deep. In spite of its much stronger economic and military strength, China has so far exercised the utmost restraint and is still trying to solve the dispute in a peaceful manner. But such good will should not be misinterpreted by India as a sign of weakness.

As a peace-loving country, China is sincere in its pursuit of developing friendly ties with India. The two countries had high-level interactions when President Xi Jinping met with Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in the Kazakh capital Astana this June. However, China is also unswerving and adamant in its determination to safeguard territorial sovereignty and national interests.

Better late than never. It is still not too late for India to withdraw its troops from Chinese territory to save its dignity. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, bilateral diplomatic channels are always open and welcomed. “We have said many times that the withdrawal of the Indian border defense personnel who illegally crossed the boundary is the basis and precondition for China and India to conduct any kind of meaningful dialogue,” he emphasized at a press conference. Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, also urged India to withdraw its troops unconditionally from the Doklam area and avoid all miscalculations just days before the PLA’s celebration of its 90th birthday. “It is easier to shake the mountains than to shake the PLA. India should not leave things to luck and not harbor any unrealistic illusions,” he said.

Besides the eyeball-to-eyeball military standoff with China, India is also facing escalating tensions with Pakistan. Since the bombardment on July 8 in the disputed area of Kashmir, the two countries have exchanged fire several times and caused the deaths of more than 10 soldiers from both sides. Meanwhile, several days ago, an Indian soldier stationed in Kashmir killed a major when his superintendent tried to confiscate his smartphone.

The Indian Government is also criticized by nonruling parties in the country for its deteriorating relations with neighboring countries and misjudgment of situations. Moreover, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is now active in organizing demonstrations and is clashing with local police in the country’s West Bengal State. The political party has been campaigning for the creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland within India for quite a long time.

As a famous Chinese saying goes, we have good wine to entertain friends. But we will surely treat wolves with guns. The longer Indian troops remain on the Chinese side of the mutually recognized Sikkim section of the border, the less room there will be for a peaceful solution of the incident.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)