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08:37, 24 October 2017 Tuesday
11:01, 07 August 2017 Monday

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Deciphering India-China standoff on trijunction with Bhutan
Deciphering India-China standoff on trijunction with Bhutan

India supports Bhutan's claim over this piece of land and sent its military reinforcement to stop the Chinese road construction.

Monavar  Alam- India

It has been more than six weeks since the armies of India and China are at the eyeball to eyeball situation on the plateau in Chumbi valley known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. The latest row erupted in mid-June when India opposed China's attempt to extend a border road through The territory, which lies at a trijunction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, is currently disputed between China and Bhutan.

India supports Bhutan's claim over this piece of land and sent its military reinforcement to stop the Chinese road construction. India remains influential over Bhutan's foreign policy, defense and commerce through 1949 treaty, the treaty was renegotiated and updated in 2007. Tiny Himalayan kingdom of less than a million people has a virtually no army to confront mighty china on its own.

Bhutan and the China do not maintain official diplomatic relations. It was only in 1984 when China and Bhutan began annual, direct talks over the border dispute before that India used to represent Bhutan's concerns in talks with China.

India’s concern to Chinese road building is if this road is completed, it will give China greater access to India's strategically vulnerable Siliguri Corridor or "chicken's neck", a 20km wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the rest of India. This narrow strip of land is the only road link that connects the North Eastern states with main land India.   On the other hand China says that it’s Chinese territory and even if there is a dispute it is between china and Bhutan and India has no locus standi in the dispute. There is a history of border dispute between the two countries on the ill-defined border. The recent border dispute is not the first one between the two major military powers of the world. Both the countries fought a bitter war in 1962 in which china occupied some 38000 thousand square kilometers of Indian Territory. In 1967 militaries of both the countries clashed in a localized conflict in Nathu la and Chola la in the same Chumbi valley where present standoff is taking place that ended in the advantage to India.

India believes that china is altering the status quo in the Doklam trijunction and violating the 2012 agreement which says that the trijunctions boundaries with Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma) will be decided with the mutual consultation with these countries.    

Beijing wants India to withdraw its troops from Dokan as a precondition before the two sides can initiate talks. India’s point of view is that both sides should withdraw the troops behind the pre-crisis line. Last week visit by India's National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval to China could not yield any immediate solution. Doval also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials at Beijing on Friday on the sidelines of the NSA summit of BRICS member countries.

In a harsh retaliatory move China closed the nearby mountain pass at Nathu la, in Sikkim that Indian pilgrims use to reach Mount Kailash, a sacred Hindu, Buddhist and Jain site in Tibet. The closing of annual Hindu pilgrimage kailash mansarovar Yatra (journey) came as a disappointment to the devotees who were hoping to visit the high altitude area, believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, following an arduous trek along the Nathu La route.

In the last few years India has made substantial improvements on its side of the border for better border management at this vital triboundary. The present escalation is beyond just a border dispute between the two nuclear powers and most powerful militaries in the Asia. Both the sides are testing the resolve of each other and waiting for who will blink first in this high stake maneuver. Both the countries know that the final outcome of this border dispute at will clearly send message to many countries in South Asia and South East Asian region. By taking strong position on the ground and by building a narrative of foreign military intrusion in to a bilateral boundary dispute Concurrently China wants to limit India’s role in future border negotiations with Bhutan.  

Many observers think that the recent Chinese belligerence is a sign of Beijing’s response against India’s open siding with Vietnam and other countries in the South China dispute. China believes that countries outside from littoral of South China should not poke in to regional dispute.

on July 9 Long Xingchun, an analyst at a Chinese think-tank wrote in state-guided Global Times, "a third country's" army could enter the disputed region of Kashmir at Pakistan's request, using the "same logic" the Indian army has used to stop the Chinese troops from building the road in Doklam/Donglang. "Even if India were requested to defend Bhutan's territory, this could only be limited to its established territory, not the disputed area."

Another significant point is that China has escalated the situation in recent border dispute after India refused to take part in the international Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing. Citing sovereignty issue India strongly opposes the China Pakistan economic Corridor (CPEC) an artery of One Belt One Road (OBOR) that goes through the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan which is a part of disputed region of Kashmir.

After heavily investing in CPEC now China has signed another multibillion dollar project named North Indus Cascade where China will build five major hydropower projects with the projected cumulative hydropower generation capacity of over 22,000 MW. Two of these five dams Bunji and Diamer Bhasha are located in Gilgit Baltistan the disputed Kashmir region.

China and India have different continental and world view. India has developed strategic partnerships with US, Japan, Vietnam and Australia;   these are the counties also resisting the Chinese dominance of Asia. India policymakers know this very well that a unilateral Indian withdrawl will send an enormously negative message to the countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam etc. Suffice it to say that the origin of this border face-off is rooted in the rivalry between the Beijing and New Delhi for the power projection in Asia.

 

 



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