Modi, Xi could hold talks on border standoff this week

Author : Mircea Birca | Tuesday, July 4, 2017
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A brief meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping is probably the only glimmer of hope as India and China stand on the brink of a major combat in the Sikkim sector of the China-India boundary.

Both leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7-8 as tensions escalate between the two.

The recent standoff, which is being seen by many as the worst since 1962, started on June 16, after a construction party of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered the Doklam area in an effort to build a road in the region. Subsequently, the matter was discussed by both sides during a Border Personnel Meeting at Nathu La on June 20.

However, diplomatic channels have been activated, wherein an early meeting of the Special Representatives on the border settlement issue has been sought.

The tri-junction area in Sikkim is the only region along the Sino-India border where India has a strategic advantage over China due to its location. This is the only area where the Indian side is higher than the Chinese side, which falls into a valley, while the other side is Bhutan. As a result, India is concerned over the attempt made by the Chinese government to make an elevated road there.

“This has huge political and economic ramifications. This area is known for ULFA, Bodoland and thus it has huge strategic threat. Our ties with Bhutan are also at stake here. Although Bhutan has questioned the Chinese move, they are not vociferous about it.

“The government has to begin back channel diplomatic talks. Else, it will become more complex,” said Phunchok Stobdan, India’s former Ambassador to Central Asia.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said that it is “deeply concerned” at the recent moves taken by the Chinese government because the construction of such a road would be tantamount to change in status quo with “serious security implications” for India.

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