At a time when India and China are having intense discussions to ensure de-escalation and ultimately peace after the violent clashes at the Galwan Valley, China is attempting to open another front in Bhutan in a desperate bid to corner India. China is making frivolous claims on Bhutan’s territory and is now offering a package deal to Bhutan with the ultimate aim to target and corner India.
Behaving like a true rogue state, China is now claiming Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary which lies in Eastern Bhutan. This is nothing but an absurd claim by China as in the past, it has never claimed sovereignty over the Sakteng area. Just like India, China has a disputed border with Bhutan as the border between China and Bhutan has not been delimited, however not even in the 24 rounds of talks between the nations since 1984, had China ever claimed sovereignty over Sakteng area which is located close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. But now China has extended its claim.
“China’s position remains consistent and clear. The boundary between China and Bhutan has not been delimited and there are disputes in the middle, eastern and western sections,” said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
After taking a maximalist position, China is now pressurising Bhutan to accept a package deal and corner India over its chicken neck. China’s modus operandi is simple, make outrageous claims over some other country’s territory, then offer a package deal, where China ‘sacrifices’ all of its claims but one, and that one claim is the territory that China had always wanted from the start.
China tried to do the same with India by claiming the entire Galwan Valley but the latter made China eat its own words after discussions between NSA Ajit Doval and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.
So what exactly is China trying to gain by offering a package deal to Bhutan? The crucial tri-juncture area of Doklam. India gave China a bloody nose during the Doklam standoff in 2017.
Now, China is trying to occupy Bhutan’s side of Doklam, which will give China a strategic advantage over India’s chicken-neck corridor and ultimately cut-off India from it’s North East.
According to an earlier package deal offered by China, Bhutan would give up its claim on Doklam. However, Bhutan has squarely rejected this deal at the behest of India.
It is important to note that Bhutan’s entire foreign policy is dictated by India with Bhutan being the only Indian neighbour to not join China’s Belt and Road initiative. Bhutan has even resisted Chinese attempts to open an embassy in Thimpu.
China has clearly stated that for it to give up its claim on Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhutan would have to accept China’s claim on Doklam trim-junction area.
An officer posted in the Ministry of External Affairs told Swarajya said, “This is a blatant and shameless move by China to pressurise a small country like Bhutan to part with a piece of its territory that is strategically important for China. China hopes that Bhutan will be under intense pressure now to agree to the tradeoff that Beijing has proposed.”
The officer further added, “There exists in Bhutan a constituency, primarily among its young adults, that is favourably disposed towards China. Beijing is leveraging its influence over this constituency to create public opinion in favour of accepting the ‘package deal’ that China is offering and resolving the territorial dispute with China once and for all.”
India and Bhutan relations go a long way and China knows that India can derail its diabolical game plan to wrest Doklam out of Bhutan. India is not only fighting for its sovereignty but also for Bhutan’s sovereignty. Only a rogue state like China can hatch such diabolical plans and escape scot-free. It’s time that China is made to behave by hook or crook.