Reports that China's mining operations are turning the Himalayas into "another South China Sea" were dismissed as completely groundless hype by Chinese observers on Monday.
Beijing has begun "large-scale mining operations on its side of the disputed border with India in the Himalayas," the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.
The mining was occurring in Lhunze county of the Tibet Autonomous Region, where a huge trove of precious minerals valued at nearly $60 billion has been found by Chinese state geologists, the Hong Kong-based newspaper reported.
The report quoted "people familiar with the project" as saying the mining was part of Beijing's plan to "reclaim South Tibet," and that moves to lay claim to the region's natural resources while rapidly building up infrastructure could make it "another South China Sea."
It was legitimate for China to conduct activities within its territory, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times, and there are no disputes in the region with any countries.
The mining operations have no similarities with the South China Sea issue that involves multiple claimants, said Hu, also vice president of China's Central Asia and South Asia Security Board.
The "groundless hype" reflected the fact that some Western powers are constantly sowing discord between China and India, and using Delhi as a pawn on the frontline challenging Beijing, he said.
The South China Sea disputes to a great extent were created and intervened in by powers from outside the region, said Qian Feng, a researcher at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies in Beijing.
"China and India, although they have border disagreements, are addressing such disputes through direct negotiations and making sure such issues won't undermine normal ties," Qian said.
There were no indications that India, as an independent nation with great ambitions, needed any outsider to help it handle border issues with China, he said.