Doka La pass is in the middle of the Doklam plateau, which is very close to the tri-junction border of India, Bhutan and China. Doklam is a 269 sq. km plateau in Bhutan which overlooks the strategic Chumbi valley in Sikkim-China-Bhutan tri-junction. It is known as Doka la in Bhutan, Doklam in India and China considers it as a part of its Donglong region.
The 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China (which Tibet rejected) set the water-parting (or mountain crest) between the Amo-chu and Teesta rivers as the boundary. Experts say this makes Doklam Bhutanese territory, but now China claims that the Bhutanese herders were paying it a ‘grass tax’ to use the meadow.
What is the dispute?
In June 2017, India accused China of constructing a road in Doklam region which will connect Yadong to Doklam and bring China close to the strategically important “Chickens neck”. China said that the tri-junction is located at Gamochen, a few kilometres south of Doka La. As per the army officers who have served in that region, China already has a road near Doka La and wants to further extend it towards Gamochen, which is also the starting point of the Jampheri Ridge, which belongs to Bhutan.
Importance of Siliguri corridor aka Chickens neck for India
Being a narrow strip of about 17 km in India, it is strategically very important since all military and civil operations are being carried out in north east through this area. As the North east region is completely land locked, any intrusion by Chinese PLA in future will create some serious problems to the supplies and reinforcements that reach further areas through this path and can also trigger civil tension there.
Image Credit- historum.com
India and Bhutan
According to a friendship treaty signed between India and Bhutan in 1949, both the countries agreed not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. Bhutan also agreed to let India ‘guide’ its foreign policy. However in 2007 Bhutan and India renegotiated the 1949 treaty and as per the provision of new treaty, Bhutan was offered a broader sovereignty spectrum which included Bhutan not requiring India’s counsel on their foreign policy front.
China and Bhutan
Chinese claim is about 10 percent of Bhutan’s area. If Chinese troops claim the disputed area, including Doklam, they will be in control of the high mountain ridges. This will put Haa, Paro and Thimphu valleys within China’s artillery range. China has offered northern pockets of Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys against Doklam plateau. Moreover, China is pressurizing Bhutan to delink the control of its foreign policy from Indian influence by raising issue of Bhutan’s sovereignty.
Why China is assiduous?
Being an aspiring global power, China don’t want to send any wrong message to world by getting involved in any kind of military conflict with India because this can hurt its image globally and create a sense of insecurity between its South East Asian allies which are already in conflict with it over South China sea. Also resorting to any kind of military options can hurt its economic ties with India which is a big importer of Chinese goods.
Our Take –
China has always followed this decade long strategy of taking two steps forward and then one step back only to give momentarily relief after which it strikes back again with a greater force. India should be cautious of this expansion policy while simultaneously planning to bring to ground its regional connectivity projects in South East Asia which includes rail and road linking project across Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand So that India can have multiple way out to reach its north eastern parts. But we should also try to solve the current standoff through diplomatic channels as any further escalation of this matter will only worsen things which can bring no good to anyone.
References: FirstPost , India Today , Economic times