Wednesday 17 June 2020 5:19 pm

China-India border dispute: Diplomats exchange blows as Chinese mobile firm scraps Indian launch

The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers exchanged protests today in an escalation of tensions after clashes at the border yesterday left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

A phone call between India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and China’s Wang Ji earlier today heard both sides disagree over which country had crossed the border first. Jaishinkar claimed China tried to erect a structure inside Indian territory, while Wang said Indian troops were the first to attack.

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The conversation came after 20 Indian army personnel were killed in clashes with Chinese troops in the strategically important Galwan Valley — known as the Line of Actual Control — last night.

The incident marked the biggest military confrontation for 45 years, and significantly escalated the volatile standoff between the two countries over the disputed border.

The last skirmish at the border was in 1975, when four Indian soldiers were killed in a remote pass in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. At the core of the dispute is a 1996 bilateral agreement that says “neither side shall open fire… conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres of the Line of Actual Control”.

China has not released casualty figures from the confrontation, but unconfirmed reports in Indian media today said at least 40 Chinese soldiers died, while many Indian soldiers are still said to be missing.

A subsequent statement from the Indian government described the event as a  “premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties”. It called on China to “take corrective steps”.

The increasing tensions come as a major blow for financial ties between the nations, which share strong investment links. 

Major Chinese tech companies such as Great Wall, Saic and Tiktok-owner Bytedance have placed major bets on India. And China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has invested huge amounts of money in Indian startups.

Chinese mobile operator Oppo today canceled the live launch of its flagship smartphone in India, in a move that could sour investor sentiment between the two regions. 

Oppo, which runs a phone-assembly factory in India, was due to unveil its Find X2 smartphone model in the region this afternoon, but a link to the launch was not available for viewing, Reuters reported. Chinese smartphone brands, including Oppo and Xiamo, account for eight of every 10 smartphones sold in India.

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Meanwhile, the Confederation of All India Traders, a trade body representing 70m Indian retailers, today said its members will boycott imported Chinese goods, despite the economic fallout this might entail for their businesses. 

Hindu nationalist group Swadeish Jagran Manch followed suit, urging Indian authorities to ban Chinese companies from entering Indian government tenders.

Indian police today arrested several members of the political group who protested near the Chinese embassy in the Indian capital and chanted slogans such as “Made in China down”.

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