NEW DELHI: On the eve of a scheduled visit by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Beijing for a BRICS meet, China has again stepped up the rhetoric by stating that the Indian troops will “not be allowed” to stay on in the Donglang area for a long haul. In fact the Chinese Military has stepped in even as one writes to warn, “shaking a mountain is easy, but to shake the Peoples Liberation Army is hard.”

In a warning-a-day policy, well almost, the official media that has been carrying editorials and articles has now been buttressed by the Chinese military that has urged India not to harbour any “illusions” and that “the willingness and resolve of China to defend its sovereignty is indomitable and we will safeguard our sovereignty whatever the cost.” The Chinese defence ministry spokesman and deputy director-general of information office Col Wu Qian said that the military would step up deployment and drills in the area.

Before Wu’s statement heradling the 90th anniversary of the PLA on August 1, the Chinese official media, in an editorial, said that the current face off between the Indian and Chinese troops “if not properly handled, could easily be the fuse that ignites a military clash between the two countries.”

In what has become an almost minute rejoinder to Indian claims, the editorial in the China Daily now refererred to “bellicose claims” by Indian officials and the media that India is different from 1962, “implying that the country’s military muscles have grown since then. They should be aware that the same applies to China, if not more so.”

The editorial has stressed for the umpteenth time that China is exercising restrain, but this should not be construed as weakness by India “as that would likely lead to making a dangerous miscalculation.”

Although Doval’s visit is ostensibly for the NSA level BRICS meet on July 27-28, it is clear that there will be bilaterals between him and China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi. However, a great deal will depend on whether India has taken a decision to withdraw its troops from Doklam, as this is a precondition that Beijing has been stressing on for any “meaningful” dialogue or discussions on this issue. Given the muscle flexing in Delhi, it will be difficult for the government to pull back the troops without compromising its position although in recent days, ever since China has escalated the confrontation with the threat of military action, there has been little on the issue from senior Ministers or officials in government.

The Pentagon has stepped in just to the extent of asking both India and China to engage in direct dialogue on the Doklam issue, refusing to take sides as it were. However, former diplomats here have little expectation that Beijing will open any new doors until and unless Doval arrives in China with a withdrawal plan. As a senior official said, “China has stated its position now repeatedly and will not shift, basically that India has to withdraw the troops so the NSA will have to work around that.”

Interestingly, India has not stepped up the rhetorical offensive and after the first statements last month when its troops moved into Doklam following the construction of the road in Bhutanese territory by China, it has fallen relatively silent. All the warnings and threats have come from Beijing over recent weeks in particular, with a steady escalation that has now reached the point of ‘war’. Although almost every statement is also accompanied with “China is still trying to defuse the situation.”

Wu’s statement and the editorial today in China Daily lays stress on the Indian propaganda that the Chinese have noted and seem anxious to dispel. References by Indian commentators in the media in particular have seemed to convince the Chinese that India is harbouring “illusions” of a) being able to repulse the Chinese in a military combat unlke 1962; b) that India believes that a military conflict will work in its favour; and c) that India is looking on Chinese ‘restraint’ as its media describes it as a sign of weakness. The Chinese statements thus, have been stressing on these points and seeking to dispel these notions by convincing the Indians that a) it is totally prepared for a military confrontation; b) that the PLA cannot be shaken; and c) restraint is not a sign of weakness and China will move into the next phase until and unless India withdraws her troops.

New Delhi has been silent with the Ministry of External Affairs now no longer rebutting the verbal offensive from Beijing. There seems to be a decision not to further enrage the Dragon lest the Doklam situation be actually pushed into a military confrontation that clearly neither country is keen on at this moment. More because the world has kept out of the confrontation, the US as well despite its anti-China posturing, out of the realisation that military conflicts cannot be contained, and can have repercussions that might ignite more than any one country bargained for.

Indications are that Doval will try and diffuse this face off. But will that be at the cost of the Indian decision to push its troops into Doklam? If so how will the BJP government assuage the constituency that is clamouring for war,that even as Beijing reacting to the propaganda? If not, will the Chinese listen and back off? Seems not as China has over these weeks hardened its stand. Withdraw your troops if you want to talk, is the message being repeatedly pounded by Beijing through its media and officials in the Foreign Office and the Military with Wu’s statement today further emphasising this.