It was a report in the Hong-Kong-based newspaper, the South China Morning Post that sparked it all off.
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The report claimed that India’s neighbor, China, had started large-scale mining operations in Lhunze county on its side of the “disputed border” with India in the Himalayas.
It said the area was literally a “treasure trove,” having gold, silver and other precious minerals, valued at about U.S. $60 billion according to Chinese state geologists.
On the face of it, at least, the report and the development seems to have caught Indian authorities by surprise.
On its part, China tried to downplay the report, to a degree rubbishing the claims made in the Post report. A report in The Economic Times quoted an editorial in the Global Times tabloid that questioned the news report’s motive, at the same time hoping that India would not be “provoked” by it.
“It is to be hoped that India will not be provoked by this report, lose focus on the big picture of the relationship between Beijing and New Delhi and get off the track of Sino-Indian cooperation,” said the editorial titled “Dodgy report disturbs Sino-Indian ties.”
In fact, the editorial also said to many Chinese people, their first impression was that the report is not credible, given the vague facts in the story.
It’s hardly a secret that the Himalaya region, from India, Tibet and all the way to Afghanistan, has massive reserves of mineral oil, gold and many precious materials. Arunachal Pradesh is said to have vast reserve of mineral oils and even coal reserves. Coal is explored from Namchik-Namphuk mines in Tirap district. In addition, there are huge reserve of dolomite, limestone, graphite, marble, lead, zinc, etc.
Indian newspapers were full of reports talking of a new flashpoint between the two neighboring countries following the South China Morning Post report. India has not yet reacted officially to the news report.
Last year, there was a major standoff between the armies of both countries at the border area of Doklam, which is a triangle area disputed by three countries: India, China and Bhutan. The standoff emerged after China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) construction party attempted to build a road near the Doklam area. Bhutan claims Doklam is its area while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.
A few decades ago, India claimed China had illegally occupied Aksai Chin — an area of 38,000 square kilometers, part of India’s Jammu and Kashmir province — and had its eyes on Ladakh because the area was rich in minerals and natural resources.
For over a year now, China has been setting up infrastructure in this mountainous region, including Doklam, leading to India registering its protests over the move to remove the status quo of the disputed border maintained all these years.
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What seems to have gotten China’s goat was the fact that the Post report also claimed that China was rapidly building infrastructure to turn the area into another South China Sea scenario, which the Global Times editorial dubbed an absurd observation. In fact, the editorial also said Lhunze county was not a disputed region at all, as it “fell entirely within China’s sovereignty.”