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China will ‘squarely’ face attack on sovereignty under Xi Jinping, says top academic

The quadrilateral alliance with the US, Australia and Japan could “become a kind of trap” for India, which has balanced relations with other nations, a leading Chinese academic has said.

world Updated: Nov 15, 2017 17:11 IST
India-China relations,quadrilateral alliance,Yuan Peng
File photo taken on July 5, 2006 shows a Chinese soldier (left) and an Indian soldier placing a barbed wire fence following a meeting of military representatives at the Nathu La border crossing in India's northeastern Sikkim state. (AFP)

China defended its territorial sovereignty during the Doklam standoff with India while keeping the bigger picture in mind but will never seek peace with a neighbour at the cost of its own interests, according to a leading Chinese academic.

“In the past, we thought we would shelve differences, now we will face them squarely because even if we agree to shelve differences, the other party might not agree to do so. So we now face these problems head-on and safeguard our legitimate interests,” Yuan Peng, vice president of the influential government think-tank, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said on Wednesday.

At an interaction with journalists organised by the All-China Journalists’ Association, Yuan had some advice regarding the “Quad” or the alliance between the US, India, Japan and Australia for the Indo-Pacific.

“I’m afraid Indo-Pacific will become a kind of trap (for India). It is not so wise for India. India now enjoys balanced relations,” he said. “It is obvious the US wants to increase the strategic status of India.

“We have to admit India is a large country. Its population may become more than that of China. So, its understandable to attach importance. Its clear India wants to get close to the US but smart Indian political leaders will not ignore relations with China. That is why we have seen the Indian side is quite cautious.”

Referring to the face-off at Doklam near the Sikkim border that lasted more than 70 days, Yuan said it was resolved because China had the bigger picture in mind.

“In both the South China Sea (disputes) and in Donglang (Doklam), we defended China’s sovereignty, bearing the greater picture in mind,” he said.

“Indeed, on protecting our interests on sovereignty and ensuring a stable and peaceful periphery, it is not so easy to strike a balance. (But) no country will seek a peaceful external environment at the cost of its own interests,” he added.

China will “always be assertive and strong” while safeguarding its sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interests “because there is no room for compromise”, he said.

“President Xi Jinping has talked about peaceful development and also that we will never allow actions that hurt China’s interests. These are not contradictory actions,” he noted.

Yuan didn’t rule out a Doklam-like incident with India in future, where troops from the two countries could be locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation but said dialogue could resolve such situations. “It depends really on what kind of crisis it is. It will depend on the situation. But both sides should learn a lesson from this, that we don’t need to fight,” he said.

“We should put Sino-Indian relations on a strategic high, like China-Russia, it’s not a normal relationship. These issues should be handled in a proper way rather than let it hijack the bilateral relationship. We need a more comprehensive mechanism and dialogue,” Yuan said.

“It (the Doklam incident) is not something that China and India want to see. Both are rapidly emerging countries and partners within Brics. We want to see the rise of the two countries like brothers. The last thing we want to see is full conflict. The incident is a reminder that China and India need to bear in mind the larger picture to manage the relationship.”

First Published: Nov 15, 2017 17:11 IST