June 28, 2017

Latest row started as India became 'roadblock' to China's plans: Experts


By Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Updated: Jun 29, 2017, 08.01 AM IST

Sherathang at Nathula main road , about 14200 feets height and just 7 kms from Nathu la pass.

NEW DELHI: China's aggressive road building exercise into Chumbi valley in the strategically located tri-junction betweenIndia, Bhutan and China, the source of the current stand-off between the two neighbours, is part of Beijing's plans to gain strategic advantage in the region, say experts. 

India stopped China's road building, which was followed by Chinese troops destroying Indian bunkers and stopping pilgrims from travelling to Kailash Mansarovar through theNathu La route. 

Ashok Kantha, former envoy to China said, "While both sides broadly agree on the alignment of the boundary in the Sikkim Sector, there are differences on the tri-junction point, which involves India, Bhutan and China. There are also differences between India and China on interpretation of the watershed boundary in this sector. 

What is a matter of concern is that instead of dealing with the situation that has arisen as in Chumar and Demchok in 2014 or Depsang in 2013, China is expanding the differences by suspending the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nathu La, which has a wider resonance at the popular level in India. This is an unfortunate escalation by China." 

China has been taking advantage of Bhutan's inability to counter them by repeatedly making incursions and widening Chumbi Valley, which is a concern to India. Bhutan looks to India to be its security guarantor. India is currently in a strategically advantageous position in the Chumbi Valley, but the Chinese want to change that on the ground, hence the repeated jostling. But this is the first time, the Chinese government has taken diplomatic counter measures. 

"India should not allow Chinese roads to be built to Chumbi valley. This is part of China's expansionist designs which would compromise Bhutanese and Indian security," said an expert who didn't wish to be identified. 

It was over a decade ago that the then Bhutanese King refused to accede to Chinese pressure to give up a key ridge in the area to Chinese control. That was done with Indian help as both countries realised the danger of allowing China to build roads in this area. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday, "India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor does it belong to India. So we have complete legal basis for this. Chinese construction of the road project is legitimate and normal action on its territory. No other country has the right to interfere." 

Mohan Malik, China expert at the Asia-pacific Centre for Security Studies pointed out the essential discrepancy in the Chinese position since Beijing refuses to accept the 1914 agreement on the McMahon line on the grounds that it was done with an imperial power. Bhutan is a universally recognised sovereign country. "Hope countries can respect the sovereignty of the country. The China-Bhutan boundary is not delineated, no third party should interfere in this matter and make irresponsible remarks or actions," he said.

(This article was originally published in The Times of India

No comments: