BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s defense ministry on Monday warned India not to harbor any illusions about the Chinese military’s ability to defend its territory, amid a festering border dispute.
The stand-off on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim, which borders China, has ratcheted up tension between the neighbors, who share a 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier, large parts of which are disputed.
“Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China’s territory and sovereignty had “constantly strengthened”.
Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China’s Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.
The two sides’ troops then confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, and gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India and its remote northeastern regions.
India has said it warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.
The withdrawal of Indian border guards was a precondition for resolving the situation, Wu reiterated.
“India should not leave things to luck and not harbor any unrealistic illusions,” Wu said, adding that the military had taken emergency measures in the region and would continue to increase focused deployments and drills.
“We strongly urge India to take practical steps to correct its mistake, cease provocations, and meet China halfway in jointly safeguarding the border region’s peace and tranquillity,” he said.
Speaking later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, would attend a meeting in Beijing this week of security officials from the BRICS grouping that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Lu would not be drawn on whether the border issue would be discussed at the meeting, hosted by China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, meant to discuss multilateral issues.
“China hopes to maintain the peace and stability of the China-India border area, but certainly will not make any compromise on issues of territorial sovereignty,” Lu said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit China early in September for a summit of BRICS leaders.
Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.
They have told Reuters that both sides’ diplomats have quietly engaged to try to keep the stand-off from escalating, and that India’s ambassador to Beijing is leading the effort to find a way for both sides to back down without loss of face.
Chinese state media have warned India of a fate worse than its defeat suffered in a brief border war in 1962. China’s military has held live fire drills close to the disputed area, they said this month.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)