Doklam Standoff Explained: Who’s Involved & Why’s India Bothered?
If Doklam falls in Bhutan, what is India so afraid of?
Since June this year, Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a face-off at the border trijunction with Bhutan. Trijunction matlab? Where the borders of China, India and Bhutan meet.
Now, the area in question is called the Doklam plateau – 89 sq kilometres that China claims as its own (no surprises there!) Rewind to 16 June, when India went into Doklam and told the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to give it a rest – aage raasta bandh hai! But India also quickly added, not for me bro, for Bhutan... I’m intervening on behalf of Bhutan. Now if Doklam falls in Bhutan, what is India so afraid of?
What's at Stake?
If you look at the map, Doklam lies very close to Chumbi Valley, a tiny slice of Tibetan territory that overlooks India's 'Chicken Neck' – the Siliguri corridor – which is India's only narrow link to its northeast. So if India allows China to claim Doklam, we'll basically be handing the PLA a readymade launchpad to cut off the northeastern states.
Besides, China has already built a highway that allows the 500 kilometre journey from Lhasa up to Chumbi Valley to be completed in just eight hours. Not only this, in the next two years, the Beijing-Lhasa railroad will allow Chinese troops to march right up to India's entrance, the Nathu La pass. Toh darna toh jaayaz hai na?
Who's in control of Doklam?
Now let's talk technicalities. Who really possesses Doklam? The root of the entire ghotala lies in this question.
So, there are few mutually accepted International Boundaries in this region. The three countries go by de facto positions, meaning, whoever has a military presence and physical possession of an area, gets to stake claim.
So today, while Doklam plateau is in possession of Bhutan, it is largely unoccupied by the Bhutanese Army, allowing the PLA to patrol khulle aam.
What is the Historical Context?
Now, let's rewind further back in time to the 19th century. China bases its claims to Doklam on the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890, which decided the Sikkim-Tibet border. But Bhutan's point is that ‘bro... we weren't even AT the meeting where this agreement was signed, so please take this document and go back to your own sovereign state, thankyou very much!’
Incidentally, such standoffs have taken place before too. But this time, the Chinese media has been giving relentless dhamkis to India. The three countries had agreed upon maintaining status quo for disputed territories until everyone could come to a mutual settlement. But that agreement seems to have gone out of the window.
Now, China's incursions and India's unprecedented intervention, has made this Doklam Standoff a cause for concern.
(With video inputs from British Pathe.)
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta and Sandeep Suman
Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya
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