India-China-Bhutan Standoff


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.


 
In June 2017, India accused China of constructing a road in the disputed territory towards Doklam plateau, an objection that the Royal Bhutanese Army has also raised. India intervened in the crisis supporting Bhutan’s stand and asking China to halt its construction work. China claims Doklam plateau, an 89 sq km pasture that falls close to Chumbi valley at the corner of India-Bhutan-China tri-junction and is not very far from the Sikkim sector.

It was subsequently reported that Chinese troops asked India to remove two bunkers that were set up in 2012 at Lalten in Doklam plateau. The two bunkers were reportedly positioned by the Indian Army as a backup option. Later, the two bunkers were destroyed by the two Chinese bulldozers on the night of June 6 after China stated that neither India nor Bhutan had any claim over the region.

Soon, there was a standoff between troops of both countries with PLA and Indian Army sending immediate reinforcements to the region. At a flag meeting later, China asked Indian troops to withdraw from the Doklam region. In the aftermath of the standoff, China refused to allow the entry of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims into its territory through the Nathu La Pass on the Sikkim border.
 
While China has pointed to an 1890 treaty between Sikkim and Tibet to bolster its claims to the Doklam plateau at the trijunction, India believes Beijing is misrepresenting Delhi's position as well as prior agreements between the two countries acknowledging differences at the India-China-Bhutan trijunction.
 
While the 1890 Sikkim-Tibet treaty backs China's claims on the trijunction being located farther south at Mount Gipmochi - which Beijing uses to claim 89 sq km in the Doklam plateau - India has only affirmed this treaty insofar as "the basis of alignment" of the India-China border in Sikkim, based on watershed, and not the treaty's other aspects.
 
China believes its claims are on solid ground according to the 1890 Sikkim-Tibet Convention, which explains its unusually frequent public statements reaffirming its stand in recent days.
Article 1 of the Convention, signed at Calcutta on 17th March 1890 by Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, then Viceroy of India, and Sheng Tai, the Imperial Associate Resident in Tibet, reads: "The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi, on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal territory [sic]."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry pointed to this treaty, saying: "In terms of jurisprudence, the boundary convention signed in 1890 explicitly stipulates that Mount Gipmochi is the junction of China, India and Bhutan, and Doklam is situated on the Chinese side of the China-India and China-Bhutan boundaries."
 



Thursday, 06th Jul 2017, 04:35:48 AM

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