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Tensions Escalate Between India And China In Remote Border Area


Indian and Chinese troops are facing off along a disputed border in the Himalaya Mountains. Now, no shots have been fired in their six-week-old standoff, but neither side seems prepared to back away. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The confrontation began over a piece of real estate, a windswept plateau with more sheep than people. The spot is claimed by both China and Bhutan. When China began constructing a road in the area, the tiny Himalayan kingdom turned to India, who sent in troops to halt the construction. China, Bhutan and India meet in a tri-junction near the disputed land. Boundary disagreements between India and China are not unusual along their 2,500-mile-long border. And only once have they gone to war - in 1962. A negotiated settlement may be the likeliest outcome in this latest dispute.

But the rhetoric continues. China's foreign minister said the solution was simple, for Indian troops to, quote, "back out honestly" since they had entered Chinese territory. But India asserts that China has changed the status quo by entering the region. Representatives have long been working to settle claims over the border. Moreover, China's assertion of sovereignty threatens a critical passage in India, which connects its seven states of the northeast region to the rest of the country. Several thousand soldiers from each side are now positioned in the area.

Any showdown between these nuclear giants is a dangerous, delicate matter. And this shoving match over dominance for the Himalayas has now become a game of brinksmanship. China, with its numerically superior army, says India should have no illusions about Beijing's resolve. The vice chief of India's army has said that China is expanding its influence in the region and that is bound to be, quote, "a threat in the future." India's national security adviser is now in Beijing. And diplomats are said to be feverishly working to ease the tensions and, perhaps, find a face-saving solution. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLD PANDA'S "METAL BIRD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.