Beijing takes its strategy from the South China Sea to the Himalayas | India News
“Each of us is a coordinator of the great motherland,” said a border guard according to an official state news agency, China Tibetan News.
The problem is that these new “coordinates” are more than a mile within what Bhutan considers its territory.
The construction, documented in satellite photos, followed a playbook that China has used for years. It has set aside the sovereignty claims of neighbors to cement its position in territorial disputes by unilaterally changing the facts on the ground.
He used the same tactics in the South China Sea, where he fortified and armed shoals claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, despite having promised the United States that he would not.
Images from December 2020, left, and October 2020 show the construction of military storage bunkers on Chinese soil near Bhutan. (Maxar Technologies of National Defense via The New York Times)
This year, China’s military amassed forces in the Himalayas and crossed into territory that India claimed was on its side of the de facto border. That led to China’s bloodiest standoff in decades, leaving at least 21 Indian soldiers dead, along with an unknown number of Chinese troops. The violence greatly soured relationships that had been constantly improving.
Even when challenged, China’s land grabbing is difficult to reverse without the use of force, as the Indian government has learned. Since the border dispute, Chinese troops have been camped in areas once controlled by India.
“Ultimately, it reflects the consolidation of China’s control over the area it claims,” said M. Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on the Chinese military.
Over the past year, China has moved aggressively against many of its neighbors, apparently with little regard for diplomatic or geopolitical consequences. His actions reflect the ambition of China’s leader Xi Jinping to assert the country’s territorial claims, economic interests and strategic needs around the world.
Xi often cites China’s historical grievances against foreign invasion and colonization, using its past to justify its aggressive strategic activities.
The construction of the Himalayan village suggests that China has extended a broader campaign to strengthen its southern flanks to include Bhutan, a Buddhist nation of 800,000 that popularized the concept of “gross national happiness.”
While construction was underway on that hotly contested border, China added a new claim this summer to nearly 300 square miles of territory in the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserve on the other side of Bhutan from where the village was being built.
By expanding its borders, China appears to have put aside decades of silent and ultimately unsuccessful talks to finalize the border of the two countries. This year’s 25th round of talks was postponed due to the coronavirus.
“The Chinese obviously seem to be losing patience,” Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese newspaper and president of the Bhutan Media Association, wrote on Twitter.
The dispute stems from different interpretations of a treaty signed in 1890 by two now-defunct imperial powers, Britain as the colonial ruler of India and the Qing dynasty in China.
The new village is near the Doklam Plateau, where the borders of China, India and Bhutan converge. The plateau was the site of a 73-day clash between Indian and Chinese troops in 2017 that began with the construction of a highway into the territory of Bhutan. India, which is required to defend Bhutan under a long-standing security pact, pushed troops forward to stop Chinese work.
Bhutan, which has felt squeezed between the two giants in recent years, does not pose a military threat to China. For China, control of the area would give its forces a strategic position near a narrow strip of land in India called the Siliguri Corridor. That area, which Indian military strategists also call Chicken Neck, connects most of India with the easternmost provinces bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.
Lamsang noted that Bhutan has long had to give in to India’s security interests. In its repeated talks with the Chinese, Bhutan has so far been unwilling to make territorial concessions along the western and central borders. “Given Bhutan’s refusal to back down in talks or even accept compromises from China, we are now paying a price,” Lamsang wrote.
Neither the Bhutanese Foreign Ministry nor the Chinese Ministry responded to requests for comment.
Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper that often echoes harsh opinion among Chinese officials, ridiculed claims that the newly built village was in Bhutan, blaming India for stoking tensions with neighboring southern China. China. A day later, the newspaper warned against “approaching foreign forces backing the campaign to attack China in the Himalayas.”
The exact location of the new village, called Pangda, emerged in a series of satellite images recently released by Maxar Technologies, a Colorado-based company. They showed that construction began late last year and was reportedly completed shortly before October 1, China’s National Day. The Chinese version of the border is south of the village.
The images also showed extensive new road construction and the construction of what appear to be military storage bunkers, according to a Maxar spokesman, Stephen Wood. However, the bunkers are on undisputed Chinese territory, indicating that China has sought to increase its military presence in much of the Himalayan border area.
China has made no secret of the construction, as various state media reports on the village show. One recounted an inauguration ceremony on October 18 that was attended by senior Shanghai officials, including Yu Shaoliang, deputy secretary of the city’s Communist Party committee.
In China, the richest provinces often sponsor development projects in the poorer regions, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang. China absorbed Tibet beginning in 1950, with the new communist government seeking to reaffirm sovereignty over the Tibetan people and territory that had been lost after the fall of the Qing dynasty. Although the Chinese called their annexation the “peaceful liberation of Tibet”, many Tibetans are unhappy with Chinese rule.
MIT’s Fravel said that with its recent construction, China appeared to have backed away from potential compromises that floated in earlier rounds of border talks with Bhutan, in which it offered to swap swaths of territory.
“Previous compromise ideas from the 1990s may no longer be on the table,” he said, “as China may be unwilling or unlikely to withdraw from the territory where it has built such infrastructure.”