The Daily Fix: India must tread carefully as it defends Bhutan against Chinese aggression
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned from a successful trip abroad, including a warm meeting with US President Donald Trump, there was a crisis in the country. Or more precisely, next door. China has prevented Indian pilgrims from crossing Nathu La Sikkim and Tibet to Mount Kailash, a Tibetan mountain that is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists. Initially, it appeared to be another case of tensions on the Indian-Chinese border, they continue to discuss demarcation, but it soon became clear that the current source of tension was in Bhutan.
Doklam Plateau, known in India as the Doka and China as Donglang, is located at the crossroads of India, China and Bhutan. The plateau overlooking the valley of Chumbi strategic importance. Doklam is nominally under the control of Bhutan, but later, the Chinese have been active in the region, the People’s Liberation Army began to build a motorway in the territory.
People familiar with the situation told several media outlets that China privately complained that Indian troops had attacked a road construction unit on the night of June 4 to 5, resulting in a fight. The next day, Chinese troops have destroyed old bunkers built by India on the Bhutanese side of the de facto border as a test of strength. China has said that Indian troops had illegally crossed Chinese territory, but Bhutan has issued an approach to the Chinese ambassador in India, saying that Beijing was trying to resolve the status quo by building a motorized route to an army camp Royal of Bhutan.
“Bhutan conveyed to China that road construction does not meet the agreements between the two countries,” said the Hindouard Times, Bhutan’s ambassador to India. “We have asked China to stop road construction and not change the status quo.”
The issue is very delicate because it involves complex calculations among all stakeholders. Beijing has not named Bhutan on the subject, instead of trying to make a complaint only on Indian troops across the territory claiming to be clean. India has not made public any statement on the alleged fight, partly because its troops are in the region to support the bhoutanienne army, not the allegations of India. The border with India and China Sikkim is not discussed. Bhutan, which has no diplomatic relations with China, chose not to speak of Indian shares and complained instead of Beijing’s attempt to change the status quo by building a road.
The crucial point, however, seems to be India’s desire to use force to defend Bhutan. The Chinese are unhappy that Indian troops have taken steps to prevent activities that affect the position of Bhutan (and thus influence of India) in the area. Beijing wants to assert its strength, and is even willing to hamper the pilgrimage of Kailash do.
This is difficult for Modi, who spent last year moving away from China. As a good friend of Beijing in minister as head of Gujarat, Modi has constantly faced with China’s refusal to allow India to expand its regional influence, and New Delhi has also changed its position.