India and China will have to resolve their prolonged military stand-off in a remote Himalayan region through talks, the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday, ruling out the chance of war because it would be destructive to both parties.
Indian and Chinese troops have been embroiled in a seven-week confrontation on the Doklam plateau, claimed by both China and India’s tiny ally, Bhutan.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India after fleeing a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, said there would be no victors in a war and talks were the only option.
“This century should be a century of dialogue,” the Nobel peace laureate said in the Indian capital. “One-side victory, one-side defeat is old thinking. Destruction of your neighbour is destruction of yourself. The only way is through talks.”
Indian troops went into Doklam in mid-June to stop a Chinese construction crew from extending a road India’s military said will bring China’s army too close for comfort in the northeast.
Beijing has demanded India leave the area, and low-key talks between the neighbours have produced no breakthrough, raising fears the two could stumble into a conflict.
India and China have a 3,500-km-long mountain border over which they fought a 1962 war that ended in India’s defeat. They have since failed to settle the border, leading to frequent claims of intrusions into each other’s territories.
The chance of a conflict was low, however, despite exchanges of harsh words, the Dalai Lama said.
“Two big nations don’t have the ability to eliminate the other or defeat the other. So you have to live side by side.”
Tension between India and China has been rising over several issues. India is concerned over Beijing’s military collaboration with arch rival Pakistan as well as its expanding involvement in infrastructure development across South Asia.
China has railed against the Indian government’s public embrace of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, whom it regards as a “dangerous splittist”.
The Dalai Lama said there was a chance dialogue could resume with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s representatives after a Communist Party congress set for later in the year that is expected to confirm Xi for a second term as party general secretary and could reshuffle other top posts.
“Some of my friends say, after the 19th party meeting, some old politburo members may change because of age. So my friends say, after the 19th party meeting, there could be some possibility, some change.”
There have been no formal talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s representatives since 2010.