India's illegal entry into Chinese territory is a miscalculation that will lead to nothing but shame on itself: experts
People's Daily Online
(People's Daily Online) 10:06, August 14, 2017
Nearly two months have passed since a border standoff took place between China and India in the Donglang (Doklam) area, yet tensions continue to escalate, leading to public concerns over an imminent war. Though the possibility has been largely denounced by experts from both sides, the unprecedented conflict has cast a shadow upon the two nations' already shattered mutual trust.
"Sino-Indian tension regarding border disputes happens from time to time, but the current standoff is different, as it is the first ever face-off in an uncontested border area. Indian troops have actually entered China's territory," said Guan Peifeng, an associate professor from the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies at Wuhan University.
The unusual standoff has caused fierce finger-pointing between China and India. As of press time, China has laid out its position 67 times, with the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterating its firm stance on the issue for 54 times, while the Ministry of National Defense has issued 4 announcements regarding the incident.
Compared to China's peaceful yet unyielding protests, India has showed an even more hawkish attitude, with some highly-ranked officials implying that the standoff should be settled through military means. India's Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, for instance, reportedly said on Aug. 9 that "Indian armed forces are strong enough to meet any challenge to the country's security."
"Though military and economic powers are heavily stacked in China's favor, the country will not easily give up the hope of finding a peaceful solution for the standoff. The standoff will continue, for now, but [China] should be prepared for the worst," said Guan.
India's wild ambition
"The current standoff shows India's intention to counterbalance China's influence and power in South Asia, as India has been holding a Cold War mentality, treating China as a potential competitor that may prevent India from becoming the region's dominant power," said Zhou Gang, a former Chinese ambassador to India.
According to Zhou, India's interference aims to breed ill blood between China and Bhutan, disrupting the two nations' negotiation on border issues, as well as offer India an opportunity to tighten its grip on the later.
As China has been reiterating, Doklam is part of Chinese territory and there is no dispute over it. Although the boundary is yet to be formally delimited, the two sides have had 24 rounds of talks, conducted joint surveys in their border area and have reached basic consensus on the actual state of the border area and the alignment of their boundary.
Currently, China and Bhutan have no diplomatic relations, while India has a friendship treaty with Bhutan, which stipulates that India will "protect Bhutan's sovereignty."
Echoing Zhou, Guan believes that India's intention is to disrupt the current Sino-Bhutanese negotiations on border disputes, stopping China from establishing advantages along the Sino-India borders. He also noted that India may want to use the standoff to counterbalance China's influence in South Asia, as China's Belt and Road Initiative has affected India's dominance in the region.
In addition to maintaining its leading role in South Asia, India may be hyping up the border dispute to distract public attention from serious domestic problems, as well as to gain support from Western countries, said experts.
Amid India's tough stance on border issues, Reuters reported the country's factory activity has slumped to its lowest levels in more than nine years in July, dragged down by disruptions to business activity following the launch of a new national sales tax.
"It's possible that India wants to use the border conflict to gain support from the public, paving the road for launching the government's reform measures," said Guan.
"As India's international status and influence have grown in recent years, its ambition of challenging China has expanded significantly. Its misjudgment of China's power and the current situation will lead to nothing but shame on itself," Zhou added.
Though the public and media outlets from both sides have gone ballistic with criticism and blame, India seems to be acting even more aggressive, branding China as a bully and spreading distorted information.
According to The Times of India in August, a Sanskrit book used in several schools in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India teaches students that India won the 1962 war, though the truth is totally the opposite.
"Instead of reflecting on itself, the Indian government has been infusing wrongful and distorted information into the minds of their youth. Years of propaganda have led to unfriendly attitudes towards China among the Indian public," said Zhou.
Unlike the majority of the Chinese public who prefer to seek a peaceful solution, many Indian netizens have shown different opinions, with some suggesting a war with China.
Under a hashtag "IndianIncursionToChina" on China's Sina Weibo, which garnered almost 4 million views as of press time, many Chinese netizens have expressed their doubts on Indian public hostility against China, adding that they cannot understand some Indian netizens' "thirst for war."
According to experts, China has never maliciously embellished the 1962 war to its public, but India authorities and media outlets have been misleading its people, offering them distorted information.
"Even before the standoff, a search on the official website of India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs can yield results containing wordings like 'invasion' or 'infiltration.' India has been depicting itself as a sorrowful victim, thus it's understandable that Indians feel hatred toward China." said Guan.
"Due to historical reasons, India has been vigilant of China's moves, while the latter has yet paid enough attention to its neighbor in the south. The standoff indicates the weak mutual trust and insufficient nongovernmental exchanges between the two nations. If the Indian government and media outlets keep feeding its people distorted facts, relations between the two nations can't be improved," Guan added.
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