Over the last two months, the two nuclear-powered countries of China and India have been enveloped in a conflict that has mostly gone unnoticed due to North Korea’s nuclear threats. It all stems from an event that took place in the middle of June when a construction crew with the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered the isolated Doklam plateau.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the Chinese entered the area with earth-moving construction vehicles and other equipment. They then “attempted to build a road” in the secluded region that is mostly populated by Bhutanese shepherds and is claimed as part of the small Asian Kingdom. However, the PLA crew were confronted by a patrol from the Royal Bhutan Army. Two days later, Indian soldiers showed up to the area and set up shop. Since then hundreds of India soldiers have been in a standoff with the Chinese.
India and Bhutan have long been allies, with India providing them with military support. According to an analysis that IndiaSpend did on data from the country’s foreign ministry, Bhutan has been the largest recipient of Indian foreign aid in terms of amount and share for the past 17 years. India also values the small country of only about 800,000 people due to their growing hydroelectric power potential and key strategic location.
Since the standoff started the two sides have given different accounts, as mistrust between China and India deepens to the lowest it has been in decades. India argued that the road would have put China’s troops to close to the Siliguri Corridor, the thin stretch of land separating the northeastern part of India from the rest of the country. Meanwhile, China has contended that over two hundred Indian troops with weapons and two bulldozers advanced 300 feet (100 yards) into Chinese territory.
On Tuesday, the conflict escalated as a source in New Dehli with knowledge of the military situation on the border said the two sides had gotten into a skirmish. Apparently, a group of Chinese troops carrying iron rods and stones crossed into the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Both sides suffered minor injuries in the altercation between their troops.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, has said that the dispute can only end with dialogue between both sides. However, China has been adamant in defending its right to construct a road in the Doklam area, which is land that the Chinese government claims is theirs. A lot of the 2,200-mile (3,540 kilometers) long border between China and India is still in dispute. However, this is the first time that Bhutan has been wrapped up in any of the border disputes between the two Asian giants.
International analysts are more worried about this recent border spat since China is setting it up as a direct assault on its territorial integrity. Shashank Joshi, an analyst with the Royal Services Institute in London, started that “It would be complacent to rule out escalation.” This comes as China has been beefing up its influence and flexing its military muscles in Asia, with many seeing India as the one country that can counter them.
[Featured Image by Manish Swarup/AP Images]