Chinese and Indian patrols at the Doklam Plateau. Photo: AFP

In repeatedly threatening New Delhi over the standoff at the disputed Doklam “tri-junction” between Bhutan, India and China, the latter and its media appear to be playing mind games in an attempt to unsettle India.

China’s foreign ministry has warned of a full-scale conflict if India does not withdraw its troops from Doklam, while an article in the Global Times said a long, all-out confrontation awaits along the entire Line of Actual Control if India continues to plays politics on the border.

Chinese military’s mouthpiece PLA Daily reported that the army moved significant armory to a region south of the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet last month. And over the weekend, China’s state-run CCTV broadcast People’s Liberation Army troops taking part in live-fire exercises using high-tech weaponry on the Tibetan plateau not far from the disputed Dokalam area.

India, meanwhile, has played down the Chinese threat and expressed hope for an early solution to the one-month-old standoff.

India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar told a parliamentary panel in Delhi on Tuesday that talks are going on at various levels to cool tempers. China’s aggression and rhetoric are unusual but everything will be sorted out, he said.

Chinese media dismissed a report on a Pakistani news channel that 58 Indian soldiers had been killed in a Chinese rocket attack across the border. Beijing’s rejection of this “malicious propaganda’ indicates it does not favor war with India

Explaining the standoff, Jaishankar said that since India has special ties with Bhutan, it had blocked China’s road construction at Doklam when Thimpu sought its help to do so on June 16.

China appears to have held briefings with foreign missions on the standoff. For its part, India, for the first time, discussed the incident with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Bishop expressed hope that any escalation does not lead to miscalculation or misjudgment from either side.

While raising the degree of hostility on the one hand, Chinese media also dismissed a report on a Pakistani news channel that 58 Indian soldiers had been killed in a Chinese rocket attack across the border. Beijing’s rejection of this “malicious propaganda’ indicates it does not favor war with India.

India too is treading carefully around issues that impinge on China’s integrity.

Mamata’s allegations

India’s federal government has sought evidence from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after she claimed that China is playing a role in the ongoing unrest by majority Nepalis in the hills of Darjeeling for a separate state called Gorkhaland.

According to Mamata, if Gorkhaland is granted, India’s strategic Siliguri Corridor, which runs close to Nepal and China, may be vulnerable because of the threat from Nepali Maoists who back China. The question is, then, will Nepalis – who have been living in Darjeeling’s hills for generations – remain loyal to India after getting Gorkhaland, or will statehood embolden them to launch separatist movements, as in Kashmir.

Mamata’s party says it has obtained proof of Chinese meddling in Darjeeling.

For India, Chinese road construction at Doklam is a security threat as it will give the People’s Liberation Army access to Jampheri Ridge and to the Siliguri Corridor, which connects eastern states to the rest of India.

Bhutan, sandwiched between the two Asian giants, does not have diplomatic ties with China and several rounds of talks between the two over disputed territories have failed.

Indian troops are positioned on a stretch of land disputed between China and Bhutan. The longer the standoff continues, the greater the risk of a conflict between India and China becomes. The best way forward for both countries is to avoid that by quietly withdrawing their troops from Doklam.

A meeting of BRICS national security advisers later this month in China will provide an opportunity for resolving the standoff.

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