The Doklam Stand-off
By admin July 19, 2017

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Over the past five weeks, the Doka La pass has become the site of one of the tensest regional border stand-offs in almost three decades. The issue emerged out of a border dispute between China and Bhutan, with both countries claiming the rights over the disputed territory in Doklam. Although India does not have a claim to any land in the area, it is supporting Bhutan in their claim by projecting its military force along the border of the disputed territory.

The problem started when China tried to extend a road further southward into the disputed territory. In order to prevent the construction of the road, Indian troops intervened on behalf of Bhutan. The stand-off began on June 18, with troops from all three countries making camp in the disputed area.

Although the issue may be mostly geographic between China and Bhutan, it is political between China and India. China was not happy that the Dalai Lama was invited as an official guest a few months before and India was not happy when China razed one of their abandoned bunkers in Sikkim shortly after the stand-off started.

The disputed area itself is called the tri-boundary point. Even though Bhutan and China do not have formal diplomatic ties, both countries have had 24 rounds of diplomatic talks over the past decades to discuss the border issue. The issue arises over a two and a half kilometer distance which all countries consider to be of strategic importance. In 2012, an agreement was reached between all countries involved that any action taken within the disputed territory would first have to be agreed on by all parties involved. The foundation of the dispute comes from varying interpretations of the 1890 convention between British India and the Qing Dynasty. Both countries interpretation of the agreement varies depending on language and the subsequent actions taken by each side in the following decades.

The century long dispute doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Although the current standoff has been ongoing for a few weeks, the issue has reached little headway over the past few decades. India’s demands include China stopping its road construction and abiding by the Bhutanese interpretation of the land dispute, while China says it will not have any further bilateral talks until India removes its military from the area. Even though this particular border dispute is small, it has ramifications in the region in regards to large disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir between India. Ongoing development will continue to be monitored as the show of strength and concessions by each country will determine how regional border disputes will be handled in the future.

Further Reading:

The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam

Indian bunker in Sikkim removed by China: Sources

What’s Driving the India-China Standoff at Doklam?

Doklam crisis: Not optimistic about prospects of an early settlement, says ex India envoy to China

China holds live fire drills, as border dispute with India enters fifth week

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