A top Indian official who was closely involved in negotiating the 2017 Doklam standoff between New Delhi and Beijing has warned that the upcoming Chinese road on the Doklam Plateau will enable the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to reach the Siliguri foothills and threaten India’s “chicken-neck” corridor.
“Actually, once this road finally comes up, they will totally outflank Jampheri and can reach the Siliguri foothills. The Chinese must be stopped somehow”, the official, who was one of India’s lead negotiators during the 2017 standoff, told Sputnik.
“Only solution is if we, as India, are able to create new JCPs (Joint Check Posts) to block this road construction progression towards the Siliguri plains. The JCP will be led by Indian Army troops in Bhutan under an agreement”, the official reckoned.
He complained that even though New Delhi has been able to convince Thimpu about the need for setting up a joint border outpost on the Doklam Plateau during the two-month long crisis in 2017, “little has been done” since.
“The Chinese had stopped during the Doklam crisis. However, we do not have options to stop them when they carry on with road advancement”, he said.
The Indian official expressed concern that reports of a new Chinese village near the Doklam Plateau and those of a new Chinese road on what is official Bhutanese territory could be “linked to a larger boundary agreement between China and Bhutan”.
“The Chinese seem to be bargaining for Doklam vis-a-vis a northern disputed portion in Bhutan. Bhutan also perceives the northern portion as more critical for its survival against Chinese demographic invasion. As far as India is concerned, the Doklam portion is more sensitive”, he said.
The ridge is said to overlook India’s “chicken-neck” corridor, a narrow strip of land crucial from the perspective of national security since it connects India’s western states to the north-eastern region.
Sensing a threat, Indian troops crossed over into Bhutan and prevented Chinese workers from carrying out their road construction activity.
According to a 1949 treaty between Bhutan and India, New Delhi has to guide its land-locked Himalayan neighbour on matters of foreign policy and defence.
However, reports of a new Chinese road around the 2017 face-off site have led to renewed fears about Beijing’s intentions in India's security establishment, said the official.
“As I said, Bhutan and China might be negotiating a land swap deal without India’s knowledge”, indicated the official, referring to a statement by Thimpu’s envoy to New Delhi, Major General Vetsop Namgyel, who last week denied the presence of a Chinese village in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese ambassador’s denial, however, has been questioned by experts, who have drawn on images obtained from satellites to reinforce claims of Chinese construction activity.
Following this exclusive around #Doklam, here's an expanded area visual that covers not #China's encroachment into #Bhutan but also allows a greater understanding of how the sector has been reinforced over time to ensure the PLA's ability in maintaining its "territorial claims" https://t.co/9VSb0T1BrT pic.twitter.com/z8Glw5Cfes— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) November 22, 2020
The reported village and road near the eastern flank of the Sino-India border comes at a time when the two armies are already engaged in a months-long faceoff in eastern Ladakh, which is located at the western section of the disputed border between the two Asian giants.