State run Chinese media has said India can ensure progress towards an Asia-centered trade deal called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by controlling its actions along the border. An article titled ‘China, India must prevent border tensions from blocking progress toward RCEP’ in Global Times, said, “China hopes that India can strive to control its actions, ensuring that the escalation of the border tensions does not endanger the atmosphere of cooperation for the RCEP.” The article noted that hundreds of officials from 16 nations will address a gathering in Hyderabad, India next week where they will meet to negotiate an Asia-centered trade deal called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand). Asserting that China and India are two prominent members of the group, the article said, however, the sides are facing the task of preventing an escalation of their border tensions from becoming an obstacle to reaching trade agreements at the negotiating table.
“China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and its unequivocal support for free trade have drawn increasing attention from the international community, which recognises that Beijing is trying to redevelop the concept of harmonious co-existence and win-win cooperation amid increased anti-globalization rhetoric. This stance is in line with the interests of all the countries involved in the RCEP including India,” it said. The article maintained that sovereign territorial rights are sacred and inviolable for China but the country is always committed to resolving disputes through negotiation and opposed to intensifying conflicts that will lead to unnecessary political and economic wounds. It further said that early completion of the RCEP negotiations will allow not only China but also India to enjoy preferential tariffs or even zero tariffs when exporting to other RCEP member countries, thus bringing new momentum to economic growth.
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However, the opinion piece said that China will not make any compromises to wrap up the deal as soon as possible. The article warned India saying that China will fight back and spare no effort to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, which cannot be traded in any case if New Delhi encourages the border tensions to thwart the free trade negotiations. This incident came amidst India-China’s month long stand-off in China, Bhutan, and India tri-junction Doklam border. The stand-off emerged after Chinese troops were stopped by the Indian Army from construction roads in the Doklam border. India claims Sikkim border as part of its territory, while China has said that the area falls on their side as per the 1890 treaty signed between British and China. Consequently, China suspended the annual Kailash Manasarovar yatra and conceded that the decision to suspend the pilgrimage was due to the border scuffle.
It also alleged that the Indian troops had crossed the Sikkim sector of the Indo-China border. Beijing has accused New Delhi of violating a convention signed in 1890 between Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet.