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India must not misread patience as weakness | Updated: 2017-08-03 19:22

It is good that Beijing has turned down New Delhi's request for negotiation to resolve the standoff in Donglang. Accepting it would have made a simple matter complicated, or even worse, changed the nature of it.

It is better that it try to clarify the truths of the matter — past and present — as well as the Chinese stance, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has done by issuing a fact sheet, because whatever moves Beijing chooses to make next, or is pressed to make, it should first set the record straight.

The fact sheet makes clear the essential truth that Indian troops have violated Chinese sovereignty by crossing an undisputed stretch of border and they refuse to withdraw despite repeated Chinese protests, requests and warnings.

For outsiders with inadequate information about the matter, it provides an understanding of why China has refused to negotiate.

And for New Delhi strategists hoping to ride the wave of recent Western anti-China propaganda that seeks to create an image of an "assertive" Beijing, this should be a wake-up call.

Since there is no dispute at the Sikkim section of the China-India border, as the 15-page document clarifies, unconditional withdrawal of the transgressing Indian soldiers is mandatory; nonnegotiable.

New Delhi may be betting on Beijing's preoccupation with ensuring stability for the upcoming BRICS Summit in Xiamen, East China's Fujian province.

China needs stability both at home and on its periphery for its development, but China will not sacrifice its territorial integrity for it. As has been said by many on many occasions, never underestimate the country's determination when it comes to safeguarding its sovereignty.

It is true that there is no tangible sign of a major military buildup on the Chinese side of the border, and that the standoff has been unusually restrained.

And it is also true that Beijing is not in the mood for a fight. On the contrary, China sees the border disputes with India as legacies of a bygone era that should be resolved through constructive engagement. It also appreciates New Delhi's sensitive pride and has tried hard to make its goodwill toward it understood. However, New Delhi should not misread such restraint, for to do so could have dire consequences.

Beijing has been correct in patiently insisting New Delhi withdraw its troops from Chinese territory. It should continue doing so until it is proven useless. A worst-case scenario should be avoided if at all possible.

However, if good manners do not work, in the end, it may be necessary to rethink our approach. Sometimes a head-on blow may work better than a thousand pleas in waking up a dreamer.

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