India and China in stand-off over Himalayan border dispute

America has encouraged China and India to engage in dialogue in order to reduce tensions over a border dispute in the Himalayas.

Chinese soldiers have been conducting live-fire drills on the freezing hills of the Himalayas.

It’s a show of force, and a demonstration Beijing's preparedness to defend what they say is their territory, a strip on the Doklam plateau just kilometres away.

For more than five weeks Chinese and Indian troops have been locked in a stand-off over the territory connecting the two countries and Bhutan.

India says China was building a road on Bhutanese soil. Bhutan doesn't have diplomatic relations with Beijing, but communicates with China through Delhi.

Beijing says the land, according to an 1890 treaty with the British, is Chinese. 

“The border is clear enough,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press conference.

“The Indian border guards illegally trespassed the boundary into Chinese territory.”

India sees China's roadwork as a security threat to their so-called 'chicken's neck', a strategic transport corridor which links Delhi to the country’s remote northeastern states.

Indian army troops stationed near the India-China border. Source: Getty

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraq says the move threatens India’s security.

“If China unilaterally changes the status-quo of the tri-junction point, then our security gets directly challenged,” said Ms Swaraq.

Now tensions over the freezing plateau are heating up, both sides have positioned troops and equipment close to the area in case fighting breaks out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, skipped their usual bilateral meeting at the G20 in Germany earlier this month.

An editorial published in Chinese government controlled media said "India will surely lose" if military action is sparked.

Liu Zhiqin is a researcher at Beijing’s Renmin University. He says India has no right to interfere in the issue as the territory does not belong to India.

“China has full right to build anything in territory that belongs to China," Mr Liu said.

"There's no reason to discuss with other countries what we should do because this is within our sovereignty, our territory.” 

It's not the first border skirmish between the two regional powers. Thousands were killed when fighting broke out in 1962.

To avoid this, India's foreign minister Ms Swaraq says both sides must withdraw their troops, then engage in dialogue.

But Beijing says talks are off the table unless India withdraws its soldiers first.

As the stalemate enters its sixth week, analysts are hoping for a peaceful resolution soon.

The rift is threatening to overshadow the upcoming BRICS summit, involving India and hosted by China, in September.

3 min read
Published 24 July 2017 at 10:42am
By Katrina Yu