India amassing troops amid border spat, says China

Delhi denies military build-up; envoys from both sides trying to stop tense row from escalating

BEIJING • China's Foreign Ministry says India has been building up troops and repairing roads along its side of the border amid an increasingly tense stand-off in a remote frontier region besides the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

The deadlock on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the giant neighbours, which share a 3,500km frontier, large parts of which are disputed.

"It has already been more than a month since the incident and India is still not only illegally remaining on Chinese territory, it is also repairing roads in the rear, stocking up supplies and massing a large number of armed personnel," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. "This is certainly not for peace."

India has denied any such military build-up and, in a statement to Parliament on Thursday evening, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj urged dialogue based on a written common understanding regarding the border intersection reached in 2012.

"India always believes that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border is an important prerequisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations," Ms Swaraj said, according to a transcript of her remarks released by her office. "We will continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution."

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

The two sides' troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken's Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote north-eastern regions.

India has said it warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

In a separate statement, the Chinese Defence Ministry said China had shown goodwill and that its forces had exercised utmost restraint, but warned that "restraint has a bottom line" and that India must dispel any illusions.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150m apart on the plateau.

Diplomats from both sides have quietly engaged to try to keep the stand-off from escalating. India's ambassador Vijay Gokhale is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down without loss of face.

Chinese state media has warned India of a fate worse than the defeat it suffered in a brief border war in 1962. China's military has held live fire drills close to the disputed area, and state television yesterday said more exercises had been conducted recently, though it did not give an exact location.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'India amassing troops amid border spat, says China'. Print Edition | Subscribe