Beijing: China is planning a “small-scale military operation” to “expel” Indian troops from the Doklam area “within two weeks”, an article in the State-run Global Times said on Saturday. “China will not allow the military standoff between China and India in Doklam to last for too long, and there may be a small-scale military operation to expel Indian troops within two weeks, Chinese experts said after six ministries and institutions made remarks on the incident within the past 24 hours,” the article in the daily run by the Communist Party of China said.
Quoting Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the article said, “The series of remarks from the Chinese side within a 24-hour period sends a signal to India that there is no way China will tolerate the Indian troops’ incursion into Chinese territory for too long.”
“The Chinese side will inform the Indian Foreign Ministry before its operation,” he told Global Times. Hu also said India would have to “bear all the consequences”, and that ties between the two countries were “severely damaged”. While there was no official response from the Ministry of External Affairs, Indian government sources downplayed the threat and said they did not wish to add anything beyond what was said by ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay on Friday and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday. “We have already said that war is not an option, and diplomatic channels are being used to defuse the situation. I think we will stick to that position, and not respond to such provocative articles in the Chinese media,” a top Indian diplomat said.
An Indian source well-networked into the Chinese think-tank circuit told The Sunday Express that Hu is “a known India-baiter”, but “does not speak for the Chinese military establishment”. “I have met him at several conferences in China, he is quite condescending towards India, and negative in his views. But he is not a surrogate for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” he said, adding that Hu belongs to a provincial think-tank and not a Central think-tank.
An editorial in the Saturday issue of Global Times also said the PLA had made “sufficient preparation for military confrontation”. “It is a war with an obvious result,” the editorial said. “The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be aware of the PLA’s overwhelming firepower and logistics. Indian border troops are no rival to PLA field forces. If a war spreads, the PLA is perfectly capable of annihilating all Indian troops in the border region.”
Over Thursday and Friday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence have released statements on the ongoing Doklam stand-off. According to Global Times, the military operation would aim to seize Indian personnel “illegally lingering” in Chinese territory. The article also mentioned “exercises” in Tibet. “China Central Television reported Friday that the Tibet military region conducted live fire exercises in recent days in Tibet. The exercise began at 4 am. A group swiftly took ground and loaded ammunition. The firing began just after dawn. The army used different ways to attack the same target.”
Zhao Gancheng, the director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, was quoted as telling Global Times, “The exercises are a sign that China could use military means to end the standoff and the chances of doing so are increasing as the Indian side is still saying one thing and doing another.”
About Zhao, Indian sources said that while he is a respected India hand, he was reiterating the Chinese government position. “He is a reputed expert, probably approaching retirement. But he too is a provincial think-tank expert, and is essentially repeating what Chinese diplomats and officials have been saying. There is nothing new,” sources said.
According to the article, the patience of China and its public was “wearing thin” and it did not want the dispute to “impact” the upcoming BRICS Summit, which India will attend in the first week of September. “India, which has stirred up the incident, should bear all the consequences. And no matter how the standoff ends, Sino-Indian ties have been severely damaged and strategic distrust will linger,” Hu told Global Times.
The Doklam stand-off began in mid-June when Indian troops stopped the PLA from constructing a road in the area. While Bejiing claims the region as sovereign Chinese territory, India says the area lies at the trijunction of China, India and Bhutan, and it had been decided that no country would take unilateral action there.