China Raises ‘Major Problems’ As Ajit Doval Meets His Counterpart

NEW DELHI:  Amid heightened tensions over the border standoff at Sikkim, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met with his counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Thursday.

The bilateral or one-on-one talks were held on the sidelines of a summit of top security officials from BRICS - Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa. 

The Indian government has so far not commented on whether the dispute at Sikkim was discussed.

China's State Councillor Yang separately met senior security representatives from South Africa, Brazil and India and "set forth China's position on bilateral issues and major problems", said news agency Xinhua.

China says that last month, Indian troops crossed the border at Sikkim to stop the Chinese army from constructing a road on a remote Himalayan plateau it calls Donglang. Bhutan says the region is Doklam, and is part of its tiny kingdom.


The row has festered for more than a month as India and China refuse to back down in the distant but strategically key territory.

India, a close ally of Bhutan, deployed troops to stop the road construction project, prompting Beijing to accuse India of trespassing on Chinese soil. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj last week said both sides should pull back soldiers to allow talks on the conflict.


But China in response warned that it would step up its deployment, and insists that India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation takes place. 

"The solution to this issue is simple, which is that the Indian troops back out honestly," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said this week.

Sarath Chand, the vice army chief, said on Tuesday: "China is expanding its influence across the Himalayas into our neighbourhood despite being an economy five times the size (of India), with such a large standing army... it is bound to be a threat for us in the years ahead."


The standoff is a very public sign of India's willingness to push back.

"As this face-off continues, the one who's actually losing ground are the Chinese because they have styled themselves so far as a major power whom no one can challenge," said Jayadeva Ranade, head of the Delhi-based Centre for China Analysis and Strategy. "So the fact that India has stood up to them is a message to all other countries in the region."

"India views China's road-building as a threat because (the Chinese) have gone against the status quo of behaviour in a disputed territory," Shen Dingli, vice dean of Fudan University's Institute of International Studies, told news agency AFP.

The road was being built close to the "Chicken's Neck," a narrow, essential strip of land connecting India to its northeastern states.

But Beijing maintains that "Doklam has been part of China since ancient times," countering that Indian troops triggered the standoff by crossing a boundary established in an 1890 agreement with Britain.

Neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi can back down without facing a "nationalist backlash" back home, said Huang Jing, a Sino-Indian relations expert at the National University of Singapore.

Xi in particular must exude strength as he consolidates power before a crucial Communist Party congress later this year.

"This situation is very dangerous. I don't think China has much choice if the Indian troops stay where they are -- Xi will have to demonstrate to Chinese people whether he means what he says," Huang told news agency AFP.

India has also voiced concern about another Chinese project: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which will give Beijing access to the Arabian Sea but passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The project is part of a massive Chinese global trade infrastructure programme dubbed One Belt, One Road, which India has snubbed.

With inputs from agencies




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