The relationship between India and China seemed to worsen Wednesday when the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that 53 people and an Indian bulldozer was in China's territory and advised India to pull them back. This followed a warning Tuesday when an editorial in the state-run China Daily said that the "countdown to a clash between the two forces has begun."
"India should withdraw its troops and equipment. Regardless of how many Indian troops have trespassed into and stayed in Chinese territory, they have gravely infringed on China's sovereignty," the ministry said, the Global Times reported.
The China Daily editorial said the clock was ticking and that it seemed like a clash would be “an inevitable conclusion” between the two prominent Asian countries if India did pull back its troops from the disputed Doklam region.
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The article referred to a border standoff between the two countries that has continued for over two months. The controversy began when India opposed China’s plan to extend a border road through a disputed plateau which Bhutan says is its Doklam region and China claims as part of its Donglang region.
India and Bhutan have historically maintained strong relations. The Indian Army is involved in training the Royal Bhutan Army, while Bhutan cooperates closely with India in determining its foreign policy. India has expressed concern that the road, if completed, would make it easier for China to access India's northeastern states. In the event of a conflict, India fears this would help China cut off its northeast from the rest of the country, the BBC reported.
The editorial on Tuesday said that while Beijing had tried time and again to avoid conflict and warned India on several occasions, India has refrained from pulling back its troops. "Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear will have got the message. Yet New Delhi refuses to come to its senses and pull its troops back to its own side of the border," it stated.
According to the newspaper, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Defense warned India not to underestimate the Chinese army and that there was a “bottom line” to the restraint that China had shown. It added that “India’s audacity” to challenge China might have come from the fact that India was suffering from a sense of insecurity and inferiority faced with China’s increasing prominence in the region.
While China has warned India about consequences of not pulling back its army, India does not look like it is backing down. Speaking in India’s parliament on Wednesday, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said the country was ready to meet any challenge. Referring to the war that took place in 1962 between the two countries, which India lost, Jaitley said the country had learned many lessons from it.
"Some people are targeting our country's sovereignty and integrity. But I am fully confident that our brave soldiers have capability to keep our country secure, may it be challenges on the eastern border or the western border," he said, according to reports.
China and India share a border that extends 2,174 miles. Following the war in 1962, disputes in areas like Aksai Chin, Depsang Plains and some areas in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, have remained unresolved.
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who resides in India, has also been a sticking point between the two countries. Speaking on the issue the Dalai Lama on Wednesday emphasized that talks are the only solution. "I do not think it is very serious. India and China have to live side by side." He said, according to reports