(TibetanReview.net, Nov21’20) – Bhutan’s denial that China had built a village 2km inside its territory near the contested Doklam plateau has been challenged by an ndtv.com report Nov 21. The report said clear satellite imagery and detailed map locations clearly contradicted Bhutan’s denial. The question is whether Bhutan had reached a territorial deal with China in violation of its understanding with India and which may be detrimental to the latter’s strategic concerns.
The report contended that maps bearing the official seal of the Bhutan government, accessed by it, also indicated that the new Chinese settlement was situated well within Bhutan’s presently claimed lines.
Earlier, reacting to an NDTV report that highlighted what appeared to be a clear Chinese incursion, Major General Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan’s Ambassador to India, had said, “There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan.”
When asked whether Bhutan and China had reached any understanding on realigning the border in the contested area, the Ambassador had said he “does not comment on border matters.”
However, he has confirmed that Bhutan and China were involved in border talks, a process slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The newly built village had been highlighted Nov 19 by Shen Shiwei, a senior producer with China’s official CGTN (China Global Television Network), showcasing several images of the village which featured a road and chalets by the side of a river.
“Now, we have permanent residents living in the newly established Pangda village. It’s along the valley, 35 km south to Yadong country. Here is a map to show the location,” Shen was reported to have tweeted.
The report cited international observers, including Nathan Ruser, a satellite imagery analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, as saying Shen’s tweets highlighting the location of the Chinese village indicated a clear breach of Bhutan’s sovereignty.
“Here’s a CGTN news producer openly admitting that China has occupied and now populated part of a sovereign country,” Mr Ruser has tweeted. “This Pangda village has been constructed (as shown by the included map) 2.5 km beyond Bhutan’s international border. China now baselessly claims about 12 per cent of Bhutan,” Mr Ruser has said.
He has called Bhutan’s denial a blatant untruth.
The report said the new Chinese village had been built in an area of immense sensitivity to India.
It pointed out: “In 2017, the armies of India and China had faced off at a site on the Doklam plateau, just 9 km to the west of this settlement. Beijing insists that Doklam is Chinese territory, while India backs Bhutan’s claim over the area. India has historically been a net-security provider of Bhutan with both countries having agreements to closely cooperate with each other on issues of national importance.”
The report also said: “India would want to know whether dialogue between Bhutan and China has meant that the tiny village of Pangda, widely showcased by Chinese state media, is now part of territory that till recently belonged to Bhutan – but may now be Chinese.”