A row between India and China over disputed territory in the tri-border region shared with tiny Bhutan is driving up regional tensions, with the two sides issuing threats to one another and Beijing warning that New Delhi must withdraw its troops from the contested Himalayan section of land as a precondition for peace.
Tensions rose after China began building a road linking to the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction area in a move India fears would give China a major upper hand in any potential conflict. China claims that Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region to obstruct construction, leading to intermittent confrontations between military personnel from the two countries.
India claims that China is attempting to block its access from the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, an ally of India that claims its territorial integrity is being violated by China. New Delhi also accused China of bulldozing unused bunkers in the Sikkim sector.
Beijing, in turn, has accused India of violating an 1890 border agreement between the U.K. and China that previous Indian governments have pledged to uphold, and it should be respected to end a "very serious" incursion by India.
New Delhi ratcheted up the rhetoric last Friday, with India's Foreign Ministry asserting that Beijing's continued “construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India.” Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley also warned that “the situation in 1962 was different and India of 2017 is different” in a reference to his country's defeat in the Sino-Indian War, which also began with a dispute over the demarcation of the two countries' shared 2,174-mile border.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated his country's demand that India withdraws its troops to its side. The warning was repeated by China's ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui on Tuesday.
"The Chinese public is infuriated by India's provocation,” Global Times warned Tuesday in an unsigned editorial titled, “India will suffer worse losses than 1962 if it incites (a) border clash.”
“We firmly believe that the face-off in the Donglang area will end up with the Indian troops in retreat. The Indian military can choose to return to its territory with dignity or be kicked out of the area by Chinese soldiers.” the editorial continued.
China has enjoyed a strategic alliance with India's historic arch-rival Pakistan, where it plans to establish a new seaport. India has long challenged Chinese control over Tibet, with New Delhi providing shelter to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who Beijing sees as a separatist tool of foreign powers opposed to China.