So it’s official: Chinese Premier Xi Jinping will not meet Indian PM Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit which begins in Hamburg, Germany July 7, because the “atmosphere was not right”. Indian officials, however, shrugged off the snub, saying they had not asked for a meeting in the first place. But the Chinese action only adds to the escalating tension amid the border standoff near the Bhutan-Sikkim-Tibet tri-junction, which has been festering for the past three weeks.
Interestingly, while the Chinese foreign ministry and media have been issuing daily warnings on the issue, there has only been one statement from the Indian foreign ministry, stating its position that the Chinese attempts to build a road in the territory claimed by Bhutan, also had security implications for India.
But an intransigent China accused India of violating not just Chinese, but also Bhutanese sovereignty, and insists that no talks are possible until India withdraws its troops from the region.
“India’s intention is very clear, which is to use the so-called ‘security concern’ as well as protecting Bhutan ... and enter the Chinese territory of Doklam,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
According to Indian analysts, however, China is increasingly concerned over India rejecting Beijing’s grand plans for the region. India’s objection to CPEC, its refusal to attend the OBOR forum in Beijing, and of course the clear alignment with the US have not gone down well with the Chinese leadership.
In fact, many analysts believe the recent standoff is a message to New Delhi saying that the US would not come to India’s aid if there was trouble on the border with China. Others, note that the free-fall in relations erodes the earlier policy pursued by both nations which focussed on improving areas of common interest while putting contentious issues like the border on the backburner. Obviously, that policy seems to be unravelling. It is time both sides defined and adopted a fresh one.