Bhutan – Doklam Plateau, Doka La Dispute with China

July 30, 2017

Bhutan – Doklam Plateau, Doka La Dispute with China

By Padmini Arhant


The Himalayan Kingdom Bhutan confronted with China, the neighbor up north on boundary demarcation drawing another neighbor India on the East due to trijunction – the meeting of three countries – Bhutan, India and China border near Bhutan’s Doklam plateau that is claimed as Donglang by China.

Bhutan, a small nation having no diplomatic or military ties with China while maintaining strategic, military, consular and cultural exchange with India forced into the triangular situation.

China’s decision to deepen border down South into Bhutan in Doklam, authorizing road construction and mobilizing building equipment and materials stretching into Bhutan’s geographical territory raised alarm for Bhutan prompting the Buddhist nation to seek assistance from India.

India already faced with China’s incursion in Northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh now required to intervene at Bhutan’s behest on defense obligation towards Bhutan. Furthermore, from India’s security standpoint China’s road project could potentially isolate Indian Northeastern states from New Delhi, a possibility not affordable at any cost.

As a result, Indian troops are stationed at the trijunction with a standoff against China’s troops amid media rhetoric on both sides weighing in more than serious talks at ministerial level. 

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to Beijing to attend BRICS NSA meeting over the weekend and direct talks with counterpart on this sensitive matter apparently was unsuccessful.

China’s officials in the political bureau and military stance insisting on Doklam as Chinese soil is reminiscent to occupation in neighboring Buddhist nation Tibet.

As cited in China’s military and civilian statements, the rise in economic power stimulates quest for expansion aptly applicable to China’s contemporary status with neighbors sharing borders with China. Though China’s territorial extension goes prior to economic growth invading Tibet and denying Taiwan sovereign identity that remains unsettled until today.

Subsequently, clamp down on Hong Kong’s democratic protest, the rise of Maoist groups in Nepal in the Himalayan foothills and similar activities in India’s Eastern states are visibly noted as China’s influence.

China’s ongoing problems with landlocked Bhutan and maritime skirmishes on islets against Japan, Vietnam and Philippines in South and East China Sea, Sri Lanka defining non-military engagement on recently acquired Hambantota deep seaport by China alongside border tensions in Central Asia are enormous in the multifaceted dispute.

Above all, the biggest and significant issue for China is United States successful testing of THAAD MISSILE in the latest response to North Korean IRBM launch in the Korean Peninsula. United States frustration over China’s passivity in simmering friction is no secret with the message from President Donald Trump on twitter expressing disappointment.

Obviously, there are substantial challenges surrounding China more than India given China’s sprawling territorial discord with far too many in Asia not to mention investments in economies demanding attention over unnecessary undertaking in Doklam straining relations among neighbors.

Accordingly, the priority on Doklam impasse is for withdrawal of troops from both China and India in conjunction with China terminating road construction encroaching Doklam to defuse crisis.

As for Doklam territory, the proximity and geographical landscape indicative of the disputed area clearly located in Bhutan legitimizing Bhutan’s claim on the plateau.

China’s economic power expended in building prosperity with all nations within and outside the region would be unique role setting precedence in the modern era rather than territorial annexations that are no longer viable in the nuclear age.

Both China and India together with Bhutan resolving the matter in absolute respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all concerned would demonstrate maturity and political will for peaceful resolutions. The commitment would avert acceleration to the point of no return.

Peace to all!

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Author & Presenter

Spouse in Divine Mission









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