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Beijing lacks adequate deterrence against provocations: Chinese media on Doklam

While the Global Times editorial dubbed the Doklam resolution as a ‘win-win’ situation, its tone indicated that not everybody in China was happy with the way the 70-day standoff ended.

world Updated: Aug 30, 2017 10:12 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Doklam,China,India
This file photograph taken on October 21, 2012 shows an Indian soldier keeping watch at Bumla Pass on the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh. (AFP)

China needs to enhance “deterrence” against external provocations such as the Doklam standoff with India, the state media said on Wednesday, calling on its leadership to evolve a “grand national plan” to prevent external forces from harming its national security.

Indicating that China needs to prove its “strength” in a crisis, the nationalistic Global Times – in its first official editorial since the resolution – said: “This will add costs to China’s safeguarding of its national security, so enhancing deterrence needs to be one of our grand national plans.”

It said that though China possesses “powerful comprehensive strength”, this has not been recognised by “external forces”.

The editorial seemed to be saying that the standoff and its resolution have exposed Beijing’s inability to deter unexpected “provocations”, such as the one carried out by Indian border troops who crossed the so-called delimited Sikkim boundary to prevent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from constructing a road in Doklam, an area controlled by China but claimed by Bhutan – an ally of India.

The tone of the usually shrill GT’s editorial indicated that not everyone in China was happy with the way the 70-day standoff was resolved, despite the fact that Beijing didn’t make the “open commitment” – of stopping the road construction – desired by India.

The editorial added the customary “PLA slap” to its content, but put it in a roundabout way by attributing it to a “few Chinese, perhaps”.

“A few Chinese are probably not satisfied about the crisis being settled this way. They wish the People’s Liberation Army had given India’s troops a good slap. Indians have their own regrets. China stressed its sovereignty and control over the Doklam area when the confrontation ended, and did not make the open commitment that India had hoped for,” it said.

The GT went on to say that India, by “withdrawing its troops”, has conceded to China’s sovereignty and actual control over the Doklam area. “China (on the other hand) has made it clear that its border troops will continue to patrol the area,” it added.

“Public opinion in India is trying its utmost to prove New Delhi’s dignity, which China doesn’t refute. The Chinese side was willing to see Indian soldiers withdraw without losing face,” the editorial said in an unusual and rapid softening of tone. This was further seen from its contention that while China “hit hard at India during the faceoff, we now don’t want to engage in an argument with the Indian media as to which side won”.

In a separate article, the newspaper quoted experts as saying that the resolution has no bearing on next week’s BRICS summit. “There is no connection between Modi’s visit and the end of the border standoff, and his visit is not a trade-off for anything,” Zhang Jiadong, a Fudan University professor, said.

“The summit gives both sides a buffer. If India does not come, it will harm both India and China. So, both sides chose to solve the standoff through a cooperative and positive gesture,” he added.

The editorial said the resolution was a victory for Asia, or a “win-win” situation. “This is perhaps (because of) the maturity of the Asian continent. US and Japanese strategists have wanted to see a long-term confrontation between China and India. While such a scenario was about to come, it did not,” the GT held.

“Despite pressure from China, India took a rational approach. Therefore, we should encourage India’s move, which matches China’s demeanor as a great power,” it said.

The editorial admitted to a new understanding of India, a factor that seemed to escape the nationalistic newspaper until Wednesday. “But this incident shows that India may act beyond the logic of international relations. As the two countries deepen their understanding, they must pay more attention to avoid any misjudgments that may lead to a new crisis,” it said.

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First Published: Aug 30, 2017 08:55 IST