World

India-China tensions on the rise

Experts say border standoff is one of the longest since the countries went to war in 1962

A four-week border standoff between India and China is exposing bilateral tensions and fanning nationalistic sentiments.

The row began on June 16, when Indian border troops approached a People's Liberation Army (PLA) group to stop building a road in an area claimed by both Bhutan and China.

India said it was asked to intervene by Bhutan and that the construction had implications on its own security.

China, which said Indian troops had stopped the construction, accused India of intruding into its territory. Over the last weekend, China issued a travel advisory telling its nationals to be careful in India, capping weeks of sharp rhetoric that has included Chinese officials asking India to pull back troops. India has increased its troop strength in the area to 3,000 soldiers, according to media reports, and has shown no sign of pulling back troops.

Even a five-minute meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg last week was interpreted differently by both sides.

The Indian spokesman said the leaders had "a conversation on a range of issues," while a Chinese spokesman maintained no bilateral meeting took place.

The media in both countries have reflected the growing tensions, with the more nationalistic newspapers talking about the possibility of a war.

China's nationalist Global Times newspaper warned in an editorial on July 4 that India should be "taught a bitter lesson" and would suffer "greater losses" in a war.

A headline of an opinion piece on Monday in Firstpost, an Indian news portal, noted: "Another war with India will be an economic blunder for China."

The two neighbours, which fought a war over the border in 1962, have a festering dispute along several areas of their 4,000km border. While border rows flare up intermittently, the two sides made a decision in the 1990s to not allow the disputes to affect other areas of the relationship. As a result, economic ties have grown, with China being India's top trading partner.

Experts said the current row was one of the longest standoffs since the war in 1962.

Former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said: "Mr Modi has built up this tough image back home to defend interests and punish those harming India. That rhetoric is leading to heightened expectations..."

On Monday, India, Japan and the US kick-started the annual Malabar Exercises, which China believes are part of a bid to contain its influence.

An editorial in China Daily said the exercises and defence cooperation showed that it is "China that should feel 'security concerns', given the importance of the Indian Ocean for its trade and oil imports".

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