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Sikkim standoff: How global media is reacting to India-China border skirmish

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-07-2017 Livemint

New Delhi: For four weeks, India and China have been involved in a stand-off along part of their 3,500kms shared border. Since two of the most populous countries with very robust economies have fought a war over border disputes in 1962, the stand-off has attracted global media attention.

The tense stand off between the two Asian neighbours is being referred to as one of the most serious border confrontations in recent decades. Here’s how the global media has reacted:

BBC: “An eyeball to eyeball’ stand off”

A BBC report says that both India and China have rushed more troops to the border region, and the two sides are in an “eyeball to eyeball” stand-off. The BBC report cited Luo Zhaohui Chinese ambassador as telling the Indian news agency PTI, that India had to “unconditionally pull back troops” for peace to prevail.

The statement is seen as a diplomatic escalation by China, added the report. China has retaliated by stopping 57 Indian pilgrims, who were on their way to the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet via the Nathu La pass in Sikkim. The lake is a holy Hindu site and there is a formal agreement between the neighbours to allow devotees to visit.

The report added that Bhutan has asked China to stop building the road, saying it is a violation of an agreement between the two countries. Sikkim is the only area through which India could make an offensive response to a Chinese incursion, and the only stretch of the Himalayan frontier where Indian troops have a terrain and tactical advantage.They have the higher ground, and the Chinese positions there are squeezed between India and Bhutan, added the BBC report.

The Guardian: “Armed conflict between the two Asian powers in unlikely”

China has demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops from a scrap of disputed territory to end an escalating border row between the two Asian powers that has drawn in tiny Bhutan. Beijing claims the Indian troops are occupying its soil, but both Bhutan and India maintain the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

The report cites analysts from both the countries, who have maintained that armed conflict between the two Asian powers is unlikely, but have added that harsh language and scale of mobilisation in the remote, but strategically important area, where the borders of China, India and Bhutan intersect, have become unprecedented in recent years.

The Asia Times: “China blocks entry of Kailash Mansarovar”

Angry over India’s assertiveness on Bhutan’s behalf, China on 20 June, blocked entry to Kailash Manasarovar pilgrims at Nathu La Pass. Nearly 50 pilgrims stranded at the border were forced to return home. China says the Nathu La route will be reopened for them only after India withdraws its troops from Donglang.

Beijing views Donglang as its territory and insists neither Bhutan nor India can stake a claim to it. It regards the road construction underway in the plateau as legitimate, added the report. While the sequence of events leading to the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops remains unclear, a video aired by Indian television channels, shows a small group of soldiers from both sides blocking each other from advancing further along the border.

The New York Times: “India was violating an 1890 border agreement”

The New York Times report said India was violating an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China that previous Indian governments had pledged to uphold. It should be respected to end a “very serious” incursion by India, the report added.

The report highlighted Chinese interpretation of events, which said that the Indian guards crossed into China’s Doklam region early in June, and obstructed the construction work on a road.

Troops from the two sides then confronted each other close to a strategic valley controlled by China that separates India from Bhutan – a close Indian ally – and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land that connects India to its remote north-eastern regions, added the report.

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