In the latest escalation between two nuclear powers, China has turned the war threat amplifier up to '11' by threatening India (in an article published a Chinese state-controlled newspaper) that it could conduct a "small-scale military operation" to expel Indian troops from a contested region in the Himalayas.
The latest standoff started in June, after Chinese troops started building a road on a remote plateau, which is disputed by China and Bhutan. Indian troops countered by moving to the flashpoint zone to halt the work, with China accusing them of violating its territorial sovereignty and calling for their immediate withdrawal.
China then added a large number of troops to the region:
"The crossing of the mutually recognised national borders on the part of India… is a serious violation of China's territory and runs against the international law," Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a press conference quoted by AFP, adding that "the determination and the willingness and the resolve of China to defend its sovereignty is indomitable, and it will safeguard its sovereignty and security interests at whatever cost."
He also said that "border troops have taken emergency response measures in the area and will further step up deployment and trainings in response to the situation," without giving any details about the deployment.
Then it escalated with a Chinese Ministry of Defense official now warning explicitly that Indian troops must leave the contested area if they do not want war.
And now, it has become more specific, with The Independent reporting that Chinese and Indian media have taken a strident approach, with an article in the Chinese state-owned Global Times quoting a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences saying China is preparing to initiate a "limited war" to push Indian soldiers out of the area.
Hu Zhiyong told the paper: "The series of remarks from the Chinese side within a 24-hour period sends a signal to India that there is no way China will tolerate the Indian troops' incursion into Chinese territory for too long.
"If India refuses to withdraw, China may conduct a small-scale military operation within two weeks."
He went on to say the military operation would aim to seize Indian personnel lingering in Chinese territory or expel them.
"India, which has stirred up the incident, should bear all the consequences," he added. "And no matter how the standoff ends, Sino-Indian ties have been severely damaged and strategic distrust will linger."
An Indian magazine's front cover last month showed a map of China shorn of Tibet and self-ruled Taiwan also ignited public anger on Chinese social media with thousands of angry posts.
"China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiation and the only solution is the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from the region," said a commentary by the official Xinhua News Agency.
"If China backs down now, India may be emboldened to make more trouble in the future," it added.
As we noted previously, this isn’t the first time that these two nations have been at each other’s throats over their borders. In 1962 their armies clashed, leading to defeat of the Indian army, and thousands of casualties on both sides. Based on the rhetoric coming out of Beijing’s state sponsored media, it appears that China is willing to replicate that conflict.