China to step up troop presence in border row

It vows to defend territorial sovereignty at 'whatever cost' in plateau stand-off with India

BEIJING • China warned yesterday that it will step up its troop deployment in a border dispute with India, vowing to defend its sovereignty at "whatever cost".

The stand-off started more than a month ago after Chinese troops started building a road on a remote plateau, which is disputed by China and Bhutan. Indian troops moved in to the flashpoint zone to halt the works, with China accusing them of violating its territorial sovereignty and calling for their immediate withdrawal.

"The crossing of the mutually recognised national borders on the part of India... is a serious violation of China's territory and runs against international law," Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a press conference.

"The determination and the willingness and the resolve of China to defend its sovereignty are indomitable, and it will safeguard its sovereignty and security interests at whatever cost," he added.

Chinese "border troops have taken emergency response measures in the area and will further step up deployment and trainings in response to the situation", Colonel Wu said. He did not give any details about the deployment.

India and China have both said they have foreign support for their positions on the conflict. Bhutan has said construction of the road is "a direct violation" of its agreements with China.

Bhutan and China do not have diplomatic relations.

India, which fought a war with China in 1962 over a separate part of the disputed Himalayan border, supports Bhutan's claim.

UNSHAKEABLE

It is difficult to shake the PLA, even more difficult than to shake a mountain.

CHINESE DEFENCE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN WU QIAN, on China's position.

But India should "not have any illusions" that its position will prevail, Col Wu said. "The history of the PLA (People's Liberation Army) over the past 90 years has proven that our resolve to safeguard (China's) sovereignty and territory... is indomitable," he said.

"It is difficult to shake the PLA, even more difficult than to shake a mountain," he added.

  • About the dispute

    •At issue is a plateau lying at a junction near India's north-eastern state of Sikkim, China and Bhutan.

    •It lies in an area that is under dispute between Bhutan and China, which do not have diplomatic ties. China says the plateau is part of its Donglang region. India, which calls it the Doklam Plateau, supports Bhutan's claims.

    •The row arose when Indian border guards intervened to halt China's road-building on June 16. India, which said it had taken the action in coordination with the Bhutan government, has since expressed concern and said it has "deep security implications".

    •Indian concerns are that it brings China closer to a narrow stretch of land known as the Silliguri corridor or the "chicken's neck", which connects seven north-eastern Indian states to the mainland.

    •China accused India of entering Chinese territory. Troops from both sides have been in a stand-off for more than a month.

    •Bhutan called the road construction a violation of past agreements.

Speaking later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Mr Ajit Doval, India's national security adviser, would attend a meeting in Beijing this week of security officials from the Brics grouping that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Mr Lu would not be drawn on whether the border issue would be discussed at the meeting, meant for multilateral issues. "China hopes to maintain the peace and stability of the China-India border area, but certainly will not make any compromise on issues of territorial sovereignty," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit China in September for a summit of Brics leaders.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from each side are facing each other about 150m apart on the plateau. They have said diplomats on both sides have quietly engaged to try to keep the stand-off from escalating, and India's ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down without loss of face.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'China to step up troop presence in border row'. Print Edition | Subscribe