A debate broadcast on the CGTN news channel featured a heated live showdown between retired Major General in the Indian Army, Ashok Mehta and Senior Colonel Zhou Bo of the Chinese Defense Ministry’s Center for International Security Cooperation.
The debate was supposed to be about settling the border dispute in what India calls Doklam and China calls its Donglang territory, a small plateau located at the tri-junction of the borders between India, China and Bhutan. India claims that it fears China’s new road will give China easier access to the Siliguri Corridor (colloquially referred to as the Chicken’s Neck), the thin land bridge which connects India’s remote north-east states with the rest of the sub-continent. India claims that China’s moves infringed on the territory of Bhutan, an Indian ally, although China insists that the territory is fully Chinese and does not infringed upon any claims by India or Bhutan.
Since China began construction on the disputed road on land Beijing claims as sovereign Chinese territory earlier this summer, India has responded in a contingent of troops to the region which China has repeatedly told to leave in order for dialogue on the long standing dispute to re-commence. In response to the presence of Indian troops in the region, China has begun conducting its own live-fire military drills in nearby Tibet. Thus far, the India troops have refused to listen to China.
During the debate former Major General Mehta delivered a long anti-Chinese rant in which he accused the Chinese media of warmongering, though without presenting any specific evidence.
“Chinese media, think tanks, Xinhua, Global Times, PLA Daily have written the most aggressive and most belligerent stories about threatening India, taking India to war, opening a two-front conflict, teaching India a lesson. I mean, that kind of language is not being used in India!”
He continued his rant, saying,
“I retired from the army in 1991, and I’m in the media since 1991. I am on TV, I am a columnist, so I study dozens of newspapers and magazines”.
At this point Senior Colonel Zhou Bo interjected, saying,
“General, you have been talking too much! This is not the right way of having this conversation.
Let me just use a few seconds – you (Indian troops) are on Chinese territory, so if you do not want a war, you’ve got to go away from Chinese territory”.
Mehta jumped back in insisting that the territory is not Chinese.
The debate in many ways encapsulates the attitudes to both China and India in respect of the dispute. While India sees the dispute as a matter of trans-national pride and collective national ego, for China it is a simply matter of exercising normal activities on its sovereign territory that Beijing is happy to discuss with India peacefully, so long as India de-militarises its presence in and around Bhutan.
The exchange is therefore symptomatic of the tensions that show no immediate signs of ebbing.
Now watch the heated exchange from CGTN.