Chinese, Indian security officials meet amid border stand-off

Chinese, Indian security officials meet amid border stand-off

The meeting comes as the two Asian powers jostle for broader geopolitical influence



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Beijing/New Delhi: Top Chinese and Indian officials met in Beijing amid a tense border stand-off in the Himalayas and an increasingly protracted diplomatic impasse.

The Thursday meeting between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was the first high-level meeting since the weeks-long dispute began in a contested mountainous border area near Bhutan. It was part of a meeting of top security advisers for the Brics nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“At present, there are deep and complex changes in the international situation,” Yang said at a separate, group meeting yesterday. “There is an increase in uncertainty and instability.”

Yang held separate meetings with Brics NSAs including Doval, in which they exchanged views on “bilateral ties, international and regional hot spot issues.” Yang also expounded China’s “principled stance” on “important matters,” according to the statement posted on China’s foreign ministry’s website.

The meeting comes as the two Asian powers jostle for broader geopolitical influence in South Asia. New Delhi is wary of Chinese investments in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while Beijing is irked by India’s lack of support for its global Belt and Road initiative.

“Doval’s official purpose is attending the Brics meetings, but the border dispute will be high up on the agenda because that’s the biggest elephant in the room,” said Du Youkang, a former Chinese diplomat based in India and Pakistan, who is now director of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“The visit will present the first good and genuine opportunity for both sides to sit down and discuss where we go from here.”

It follows a period of particularly angry rhetoric from Chinese observers and state-owned media, reflecting China’s confidence and perceived upper hand over India, which has been mostly silent on the dispute.

Most observers expect the standoff to be resolved diplomatically, but a sense of rising nationalism in both India and China makes it difficult for either country to stand down — and risks prolonging the face-off as troops continue to stare each other down ahead of a September Brics summit in China’s Xiamen.

Border standoff

The Doval visit could lay the groundwork for formal talks but it is unlikely to produce a “quick breakthrough,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, or RUSI.

“Chinese rhetoric has remained harsh, rather than softening, and Beijing will want to see how India responds to sustained pressure,” he said.

— Bloomberg

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