China slams Indian army chief’s border comments as ‘unconstructive’
By Abhishek G Bhaya
‍China on Monday slammed Indian army chief’s comments about shifting India’s military focus to its border with China as “unconstructive”, asserting that it went against the consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries to improve bilateral ties and maintain peace on the border.
“The past one year witnessed some twists and turns in China-India relations. On the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Xiamen last September, the two leaders (Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) reached important consensus on properly handling differences and bringing China-India relations back to the track of sound and steady development,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Monday, stressing that recent efforts by both nations to enhance dialogue and consultation have shown a positive sign of improvement and growth.
“It was against this background that the senior Indian [army] official made the unconstructive remarks. We think that these remarks are not only against the important consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries, but also run counter to the efforts made by the two sides to improve and develop China-India relationship. They are not conducive to the joint efforts of the two sides to maintain peace and tranquility in the border region,” Lu said.
The foreign ministry spokesperson urged “certain people in India to uphold the spirit of the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, to do more things that are conducive to peace and stability in the border region and to refrain from doing anything that might further complicate the situation.” 

Rawat: China powerful, but India not weak

India's army chief General Bipin Rawat during the Army Day Parade in New Delhi, India, on January 15, 2018. /VCG Photo

India's army chief General Bipin Rawat during the Army Day Parade in New Delhi, India, on January 15, 2018. /VCG Photo

India’s army chief General Bipin Rawat announced on Friday that his military will alter its strategic focus to the northern border with China as opposed to its established emphasis on the western border with Pakistan. While asserting that New Delhi was capable of tackling China’s increasing assertiveness in the region, General Rawat also stressed on the need for modernization of the armed forces.
“We need modern weapons and technology. We have to look at what we require to fight the future wars. We have to get systems that are best suited for our requirements. The focus has to shift to the northern borders. We have focused too long on the western side," General Rawat said addressing the media in New Delhi.
Referring to the Donglang standoff between the militaries of the two nations last summer, the Indian army chief claimed that while the Chinese troops have maintained their presence in the region, their numbers have declined and level of activity has gone down, according to Indian media reports.
Saying that India has deployed more troops in forward positions along its northern border, General Rawat said: "We will not allow our territory to be invaded by anyone. Troops are earmarked and should a situation arises, our troops are ready to cater.”
“China is a powerful country, but we are not a weak nation either," the general stated. 

'Donglang belongs to China'

Responding to General Rawat’s comments on Donglang, Lu asserted China’s sovereignty over the region.
“If this senior officer was referring to China's Donglang, this particular area, then I believe you are quite clear about our position,” he said, adding: "The Donglang area belongs to China and has always been under the effective administration and control of China. There is no dispute over it. The stationing and patrolling of the Chinese border troops in the Donglang area are acts to exercise China's sovereign rights and safeguard its own territorial sovereignty in accordance with the historical convention."
Lu also stressed that General Rawat’s remarks have once again showed clearly the fact and the nature of the Indian military's trespassing into China's territory.
The Donglang standoff between Chinese and Indian troops began on June 18 last year and ended on August 28, just ahead of Modi’s visit to China for attending the BRICS summit in Xiamen.
"We ask the Indian military to learn a lesson from this incident (Donglang standoff), observe the historical Convention, maintain peace and stability in the border region and create a sound atmosphere for the positive development of the relationship between the two countries," Lu said.

China-India hotline 'very soon'

The Indian army chief has meanwhile also stated that a hotline will be set up between the Indian and Chinese armies “very soon” to promptly respond to incidents along the border, according to local media reports.
“It is moving very fast. Very soon we will have a hotline with the Chinese side,” General Rawat was quoted as saying in a report by India’s Mint newspaper.
General Rawat said both India and China were very keen on having a hotline between the Indian Army’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and the Chinese officer holding similar position, according to the report.
The general stressed that the hotline will help resolve incidents along the border promptly. “We are very keen to start the hotline. The Chinese are also very clear,” he said.
As of today, India and Pakistan operate a hotline between their DGMOs.
[Cover Photo: China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang and India's army chief General Bipin Rawat]