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China-India Border Crisis is Unfolding at 'Most Unfavorable Time' for Beijing

© AFP 2023 / DIPTENDU DUTTA This file photo taken on July 10, 2008 shows a Chinese soldier (L) next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state
This file photo taken on July 10, 2008 shows a Chinese soldier (L) next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India's northeastern Sikkim state - Sputnik International
India should withdraw its troops from Chinese territory if it does not want war, according to a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman. His statement came amid the ongoing border standoff between Beijing and New Delhi in the region known as "Doklam" in India and "Donglang" in China.

"If you don't want war, go away from Chinese territory", Senior Colonel of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense Zhou Bo said during a China Global Television Network (CGTN) debate show on Tuesday.

His words, which were addressed to Ashok Mehta, a former Major General of the Indian Army, reflect the escalating border conflict between Beijing and New Delhi in the region known as "Doklam" in India and "Donglang" in China.

Answering the Indian colleague's words that the Doklam area remains disputed territory, Zhou Bo said that "Bhutan participated in 24 rounds of talks and never questioned that this was an essential part of China."

Chinese President Xi Jinping, for his part, stressed that although Beijing always stands for peace and dialogue, it will not allow anyone to take away even a small plot of Chinese territory.

In early June, Chinese workers began to build a highway through the Doklam plateau, which triggered a protest from Bhutan. A few days later, Indian servicemen, with whom Bhutan had friendly relations, crossed the state border and after a short skirmish drove the Chinese military from the area.

CGTN, in turn, claimed that "the China-India border dispute broke out when Indian border troops illegally crossed the Sikkim sector of the China-India boundary and entered Chinese territory on June 18."

Commenting on the issue in an interview with Sputnik, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin said that the Chinese-Indian border standoff "came at the most unfavorable time, especially from the point of view of Beijing."

Citing the upcoming 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China and a BRICS summit due to be held in China's Xiamen, Kashin said that "the Chinese leaders now cannot afford to look  weak", which is why they made a spate of stern statements on the matter.

"Given the political situation in China, one can hardly assume that Beijing deliberately provoked the current aggravation of the situation. Perhaps Beijing thought that by dealing with the construction in the disputed area, it did nothing illegal. On the other hand, the Indian side could see Chinese actions as offensive and aggressive," Kashin added.

He recalled that "India is concerned about China's growing South Asian clout" and that "Bhutan has special relations with India which stipulate India being responsible for Bhutan's security and foreign relations." Additionally, New Delhi is alarmed about the growth of economic and military and technical cooperation between China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to Kashin.

"Further intensification of competition is out of line with the parties' interests. China, with all its attempts to expand its influence in South Asia, cannot afford to alienate India by sending it toward a closer partnership with the US in the security sphere," Kashin said.

He warned that "if an irreversible deterioration in relations occurs, China will complicate India's strategic position thanks to a more powerful army and a military and industrial complex as well as control over Tibet."

This photograph taken on February 11, 2017, shows a hairpin bend on a road near Tsomgo Lake in the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim. - Sputnik International
Amid China Standoff, India Hits Pedal on Border Road Construction After Delay
"The possible deployment of additional Chinese troops on a permanent basis in Tibet may prompt India to take extremely costly and burdensome retaliatory measures, and even these steps are unlikely to add to India's security," Kashin pointed out.

He also drew attention to the fact that "a number of third-party players are now interested in escalating the current border disputes between India and China." In this vein, he recalled that on July 16, false news about a Chinese missile attack on an Indian border checkpoint post was published in the Pakistani media and social networks.

"In the current situation, it would be extremely important for India and China to reach a compromise on the issue. A stiff struggle for influence on minor regional countries does not meet the interests of either side. Such a struggle would hurt increasingly important Sino-Indian economic ties and may eventually turn into a military confrontation," Kashin concluded.

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