While North Korea Fires Missile, Nuclear-Armed China and India Stand Down – TheStreet.com
While North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the United States face off over Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program,India and China have agreed to disagree in their border dispute high in the Himalayas, with both sides claiming a diplomatic victory. India is withdrawing troops that had moved into a contested part of the Bhutan border in an area where China won a “hot war” with India in 1962.
With nationalistic leaders in charge in both nations — which always glance askew at each other anyway — neither India nor China wanted to be seen as backing down. That created a two-and-a-half-month impasse when soldiers from the world’s most-populous nations started each other down.
The dispute high in the highest of Himalayas — the area is not far from Mount Everest — started on June 16. India calls the plateau where they standoff took place Doklam; China dubs it Dong Lang. Both sides sent around 300 soldiers to stand off against each other.
India called its troops into action after Chinese construction workers sought to extend a road into an area that it claims, but that India and Bhutan both say belongs to Bhutan. Bhutan, which relies on India for most things, called on its ally’s support to repel the Chinese.
The situation bore certain similarities to the events that led to the Sino-Indian War in late 1962. This time around, the spat on two occasions devolved into physical conflict. A real war between nuclear-armed nations that account for 36% of the world’s people and 18% of its economic output would have been disastrous.
The dispute did get physical. In June, the two sets of troops shoved up against each other’s chests in an effort to barge the other side down. And there was real fighting in mid-August, albeit with fists, rather than guns.
Troops from the two sides kicked, punched and even threw rocks at each other during a brawl next to Pangong Lake, it appears from a 43-second video of the mêlée, but thankfully avoided live fire. Indian media gave the footage plenty of airtime, saying it shows the two-hour fracas that resulted from an attempt by Chinese troops to enter Indian terrain on Indian independence day on Aug. 15.
The disputed area is close to India’s “chicken neck” — its narrowest swathe of territory, at times only 12 miles wide. The neck sits at the point where Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal almost touch, and just south of Chinese Tibet. It links India’s seven westernmost provinces, the “head,” with the body of the country. India also has its own dispute with China over territory in Sikkim, where Tibet touches the north of the neck.
India says the area the Chinese construction workers entered is disputed; China sees it as its own.
China claims Indian troops then “illegally crossed the well-delimited China-India border” in Sikkim. It believes its cries of protestation “made the facts and the truth of the situation known to the international community.”
Beijing says New Delhi called its dogs of war back at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, withdrawing all its equipment and personnel. India, in a brief statement, calls it an “expeditious disengagement of border personnel” from the “face-off site” that was agreed by both sides. Anonymously, Indian officials have claimed China has taken a step back, too, withdrawing the earth-movers and suspending construction of the road.
The timing works out well. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen during a Sept. 3-5 summit of the BRICS emerging economies. The hard men represent the strongest leader each country has seen since Chairman Mao and Indira Gandhi.