CHINA-INDIA: FACE-OFF AT DOKA LA

1. On August 4, 2017, Global Times published an article by You Dongxiao, Associate Professor with the International College of Defense at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, which was publicised by China's official news agency Xinhua. Saying the stand-off has continued now for almost two months and "there is still no end in sight", it asserted "China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiation and the only solution is the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the region. The situation boils down to three main reasons why China will not, and cannot, back down". It listed these as (i) "Doklam is Chinese territory and there is no doubt or dispute about it". "The Doklam region belongs to China and has (been) under Chinese rule for a very long time. This part of the boundary between Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Sikkim State is clearly delineated in the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet". "If China backs down now, India may be emboldened to make more trouble in the future. Beijing and New Delhi still have a number of differences over undefined sections of frontier, but Doklam is not one of them". (ii) "It is simply illegal for India to send military personnel into Chinese territory. India's own security concerns cannot possibly warrant a military occupation of a neighboring country. If they did, then any country could send its military forces unbidden into any neighboring country over purely internal security concerns.(iii) The border line is the bottom line. China has relentlessly stated that it will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory away from the country at any time, in any form. China's position on such matters is crystal clear and unwavering. Some Indian strategists and policymakers may be laboring under the misapprehension that China will back down sooner or later, citing resistance from vested interests in China's ongoing reform; that reform of the People's Liberation Army remains unfinished"; and that "it is ridiculous to conclude that China will allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be compromised. China will never back down in the face of foreign military pressure and will defend its native soil at all costs". 

2. On August 4, 2017, China's authoritative news agency Xinhua reported the the Chinese Defense Ministry urging India to "immediately pull back the trespassing troops to the Indian side of the boundary". Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson of China's Ministry of National Defence asked 'the Indian side to swiftly address the situation in a proper manner to restore peace and tranquility in the border region". He said "China has shown utmost goodwill ..." and the "Chinese armed forces have also shown a high level of restraint", however, "goodwill has its principles and restraint has its bottom line." Ren Guoqiang urged India "to give up the illusion of its delaying tactic, as no country should underestimate the Chinese forces' confidence and capability to safeguard peace and their resolve and willpower to defend national sovereignty, security and development interests. Chinese armed forces will resolutely protect the country's territorial sovereignty and security interests." 

3. A Global Times editorial on August 4, 2017, observed that the "Chinese foreign and defense ministries have released statements on the illegal trespass of Indian troops into Chinese territory, vowing to take all necessary measures to make India withdraw its troops unconditionally". It said "China's stance has always been clear, which is that the standoff is taking place in Chinese territory, as the border was clearly defined by the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet." It questioned India's concern at China building the road and "incursion by Indian troops' incursion into another country in utter disregard of international treaties?" It asserted that "India is publicly challenging a country that is far superior in strength" adding that "India's recklessness has shocked Chinese". The Editorial pointedly noted that "Over the past month, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been on the move. We believe that the PLA has made sufficient preparation for military confrontation. It is a war with an obvious result. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be aware of the PLA's overwhelming firepower and logistics. Indian border troops are no rival to PLA field forces. If a war spreads, the PLA is perfectly capable of annihilating all Indian troops in the border region". It  said China had not yet started a war as it wanted "to give peace a chance and allow India to recognize the grave consequences".  Stating that "The Modi government's hard-line stance is sustained by neither laws nor strength" it warned that "this administration is recklessly ... jeopardizing India's national pride and peaceful development". The editorial concluded with the warning"The PLA did not strike in the past month when Indian troops savagely trespassed into Chinese territory. If the Modi government takes China's goodwill for weakness, its recklessness will only lead to devastation." It also advised that "The Modi government should stop lying to its people that "India in 2017 is different from India in 1962." The gap in national strength between the two countries is the largest in the past 50 years. If the Modi government wants to start a war, at least it should tell its people the truth".

4. An article by Lu Xin in the Global Times on August 4, warned that "China will not allow the military standoff between China and India in Doklam to last for too long, and there may be a small-scale military operation to expel Indian troops within two weeks, Chinese experts said after six ministries and institutions made remarks on the incident within the past 24 hours". The article pointed out that between Thursday and Friday, two ministries and four institutions, including the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Chinese Embassy in India and the People's Daily, released statements or commentary on the military standoff between China and India in Doklam, Tibet Autonomous Region".  It quoted Hu Zhiyong, a Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and reputed to reflect the views of senior CCP cadres, as saying "The series of remarks from the Chinese side within a 24-hour period sends a signal to India that there is no way China will tolerate the Indian troops' incursion into Chinese territory for too long. If India refuses to withdraw, China may conduct a small-scale military operation within two weeks." Hu Zhiyong said that 'the military operation would aim to seize Indian personnel illegally lingering in Chinese territory or to expel them'. He said "The Chinese side will inform the Indian Foreign Ministry before its operation." Separately, the state-owned China Central Television reported on August Friday that the Tibet military region conducted live fire exercises in recent days in Tibet. Zhao Gancheng, Director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told Global Times that "The exercises are a sign that China could use military means to end the standoff and the chances of doing so are increasing as the Indian side is still saying one thing and doing another." The patience of China and its public is wearing thin, Zhao Gancheng said, and China does not want the dispute to impact the upcoming BRICS summit, which India will attend. The summit is to be held in September in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province. Zhao Gancheng said that if the current standoff ends in a military clash, bilateral ties would suffer for at least five years, and India may stir up troubles with China, which may cause tensions among China's other neighbors. Hu Zhiyong added that "India has adopted an immature policy toward China in recent years. Its development is not at the same level as China's. It only wants to seek disputes in an area which originally has no disputes to gain bargaining chips."

5. On August 2, 2017, the Chinese news outlet ifeng (affiliated to the Phoenix News Group) published an article personally critical of Indian Prime Minister Modi. It described Modi as a "A merciless and ambitious person" and said 'To understand the present India, one has to understand its authority, the person in power-Narendra Modi, not only his economic reforms but also administrative reforms. It can also be said that his political attribute is of a merciless and formidable person. Some would say that Modi is a kind hearted, amiable looking white haired person like the smiling maitreya Buddha and how can these words come together with ruthless, heartless, butcher like words. It can be said very clearly that In Indian and international media it is an open secret or common knowledge.'

6. In an indication of a toughening in China's stance on the India-China face-off at Doka La that has now exceeded 40 days, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a 2090-word, 15 paragraph, 4-Part statement with 3 Appendices, on August 2, 2017, detailing its position on the Doklum incident and asking India to withdraw "its trespassing border troops back to the Indian side of the boundary and conduct a thorough investigation into the illegal trespass so as to swiftly and appropriately resolve the incident and restore peace and tranquility to the border area between the two countries".

7. The statement was published on the front page of the Global Times, People's Daily and PLA Daily on August 2 and was reported on China's state-owned CGTV.

8. A Global Times article of August 1, 2017, unmistakably aimed at India asserted the "PLA is led by the Communist Party of China and serves the people. This characteristic, rooted in the PLA's history, is consistent with China's reality and unique to China. As the cornerstone of China's strength, the PLA has been playing an active role in shaping and implementing the national strategy, and it always pledges loyalty and abides by the discipline".  It pointed out that "China's 2017 national defense budget ranks second in the world at $151.4 billion, which is one-fourth of the US' budget and three times India's. China is close to top-notch in heavy industries, space technology and the electronics industry, and leads the world in high-tech research and development. All these form the PLA's strength". Comparing the PLA's advances with the US, it added that China has built "the PLA into a top-notch military force, China has made efforts to produce a variety of hardware, including satellite navigation systems, warships and warplanes". Acknowledging that "since China hasn't been involved in a war in almost 30 years, Chinese soldiers and mid- and low-level military officers have no combat experience, and the cutting-edge equipment have not been tested in actual combat either", it said "In recent decades, wars have broken out between big and small countries, but not between major powers. Therefore, other countries' militaries have not fought the PLA and do not enjoy a psychological advantage".  It said "as China's national interests expand, the PLA will take on greater responsibilities. Other countries need to get used to the presence of Chinese forces outside China's coastal waters, whether they like it or not" and emphasised that "undererestimating the PLA's strength could lead to a major mistake. Claiming that the PLA is a threat is also misleading. The PLA has exercised restraint compared with its counterparts from other powers. It is hoped the other countries can learn more and befriend the PLA".






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