(TibetanReview.net, Jan26’23) – China has been building more and more villages and other structures in Bhutanese territory and making new territorial claims against this occupied Tibet’s southern neighbour while pushing the country to reach a speedy border settlement that would give it a strategically commanding perch over India, according to a pardafas.com report Jan 24.
Bhutan and Chinese occupied Tibet share a border spanning around 500km, most of which has historically been disputed. However, while Bhutan acknowledges four territorial disputes, China insists there are six, the report said.
In northern Bhutan, China lays claim over Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys. These are agriculturally important territories of Bhutan. In western Bhutan, the disputed territories include, among others, Doklam, Yak Chu, Sinchulungpa and Langmarpo valleys.
Some of these territories are stated to lay quite close to the India, Tibet and Bhutan tri-junction and more importantly to the Siliguri corridor which holds great strategic value to India.
In addition, China astonishingly began laying claim on the Sakteng sanctuary, located in eastern Bhutan, in 2020. This brazen claim is seen as being meant to bully Bhutan into speeding up the settlement of the existing disputes in a way that could not be acceptable to India, which has a vital geostrategic interest in it vis-à-vis China.
An agreement on expediting the implementation of an Oct 2021 Memorandum of Understanding on the Three-Step Roadmap for Expediting the China-Bhutan Boundary Negotiation signed between the two sides in Kunming, China, earlier this month was yet another push by Beijing to pressure Thimphu in this unacceptable direction.
It was signed ahead of the 25th Round of Bhutan-China boundary talks to be held “as soon as possible at mutually convenient dates.”
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But even as the borders disputes remain, and continues to be negotiated on, China has been building new villages and other structures across the disputed areas.
The Kathmandu-based pardafas.com cited recent reports as saying that around 200 structures had been brought up in the disputed areas, with more constructions being underway.
“These supposed villages withhold great advantage to the Chinese side as many of them have been seen to be taking shape around the highly volatile Dokhlam region closer to the tri-junction bordering India. These villages provide better troop reinforcement monitoring facilities amongst other strategic advantages to the Chinese side giving it an intelligence edge over its counterparts,” the report noted.
Any Doklam compromise would be totally unacceptable to India, which drove this message home in 2017, when it stopped China from building a road in the disputed territory, resulting in a 73-day, tense border standoff.
China began its territorial dispute with Bhutan when it brought out its new maps of 1954 and 1958, and its illegal occupation of 300 square miles of Bhutanese territory further aggravated the apprehensions about Chinese designs on Bhutan, noted the ANI news agency Jan 25.
Economically rising, militarily muscle-flexing China currently has a total of 17 territorial disputes with its neighboring nations, of which at least 7 seem to be territorial disputes related to land cover, the pardafas.com report said. Other disputes include those in the South China Sea, involving Southeast Asian countries, not to forget the Senkaku islands dispute in the East China Sea with Japan, among others.