China-India face-off at Sikkim border

China-India face-off at Sikkim border

On June 4, Bhutanese soldiers objected to a road party of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which visited Doklam area along Sindo_Bhutanese  to lay a...

On June 4, Bhutanese soldiers objected to a road party of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which visited Doklam area along Sindo_Bhutanese to lay a motorable road. Doklam plateau is a 269-sq km plateau in Bhutan, which overlooks the strategic Chumbi Valley. It is at the tri-junction of India’s Sikkim, China and Bhutan. The plateau is being claimed by China.

As the Bhutanese could not fend off the mighty PLA troops, India, which has a security agreement with Bhutan, stepped in and in coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan, Indian troops from nearby Sikkim sector prevented the Chinese from going ahead with their plan. China alleged that the spot where Indian border troops “trespassed” is Chinese territory, but Doklam is a dispute between China and Bhutan.

India also told China that such road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India. Bhutan has also urged China to return to the status quo as on June 16, 2017. While there have been instances of stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the past, including in Chumar, a border patrol facility located in southern Ladakh, this time it is different as it involves a third country.

China recognised Sikkim as part of India when the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee visited China in 2003. But it is keen on Doklam plateau, given its strategic importance overlooking the Chumba valley in Tibet. Laying the road will enable China to access the Chicken’s Neck, a narrow stretch connecting India’s North East to the rest of the country.

Chumbi Valley is just 500 km from Siliguri corridor or the chicken neck which connects India to North East and Nepal to Bhutan. Though, the Chinese question Indian troops presence in Bhutan, it should understand it is akin to US presence in South Korea against North Korean aggression. Besides, under a treet of friendship, Bhutan and India have to consult each other on defence and sovereignty issues.

Hence, Indian troops are not planning to leave the area. India’s intervention is necessitated as China violated the 2012 agreement which states that "tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalized in consultation with the concerned countries. Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding." China has now blocked the Kailash Mansarover pilgrimage through Nathu La Pass in Sikkim.

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