Bhutan ‘un­der In­dia pres­sure’

Bor­der dis­pute proof of New Delhi’s hege­mony in South Asia: an­a­lysts

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Liu Xin

In­dia is con­tin­u­ing to pile pres­sure on Bhutan to take a po­si­tion on the cur­rent mil­i­tary stand­off in the Dok­lam re­gion, which only re­veals In­dia’s hege­monism in South Asia, Chi­nese ex­perts told the Global Times Fri­day.

In­dian me­dia re­ports quoted a Chi­nese diplo­mat as say­ing that Bhutan has con­veyed to China via diplo­matic chan­nels that the area of the stand­off is not Bhutan’s ter­ri­tory. Bhutanese of­fi­cials had “re­jected” the re­port, re­fer­ring me­dia to a pre­vi­ous state­ment, the Times of In­dia re­ported Thurs­day.

How­ever, the anony­mous of­fi­cial sources in Bhutan cited by the Times of In­dia did not di­rectly say that Bhutan re­jected the Chi­nese diplo­mat’s claim. They said that “our po­si­tion on the bor­der is­sue is very clear. Please re­fer to our state­ment which has been pub­lished on the web­site of Bhutan’s for­eign min­istry on June 29, 2017,” the Times of In­dia re­ported.

Bhutan’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs re­leased a state­ment on its web­site on June 29, in an­swer to

queries “re­gard­ing the Bhutan-China bound­ary in the Dok­lam area.”

“Bhutan’s state­ment shows that the prob­lem in Dok­lam is be­tween China and Bhutan, and it also takes In­dia’s stance into con­sid­er­a­tion since In­dia has put great pres­sure on Bhutan,” Zhou Fangyin, a pro­fes­sor with the Guang­dong Re­search In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Strate­gies, told the Global Times on Fri­day.

Al­though Bhutan’s state­ment said that “the con­struc­tion of the road in­side Bhutanese ter­ri­tory is a di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the agree­ments and af­fects the process of de­mar­cat­ing the bound­ary be­tween our two coun­tries,” it made the re­marks be­cause of pres­sure from In­dia, ex­perts said.

“Bhutan does not want to of­fend In­dia con­sid­er­ing the lat­ter is its largest donor coun­try and cred­i­tor. But Bhutan ex­pects to de­velop ties with China,” Qian Feng, a re­search fel­low with the Na­tional Strat­egy In­sti­tute at Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, told the Global Times on Fri­day.

The In­dian me­dia has tried ev­ery­thing to get Bhutan to come down on its side, but only got those few sen­tences, which shows that Bhutan cher­ishes its re­la­tions with China and the ac­com­plish­ments of the 24 rounds of talks to re­solve bound­ary dis­putes, Qian said.

Zhang Ji­adong, a pro­fes­sor from Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity, said Fri­day that Bhutan’s ap­peal over the Dok­lam re­gion started in 2000, which sug­gests that In­dia had a hand in the ini­tial process and it was not Bhutan’s idea. It is also not the first time that In­dia is be­ing hege­monis­tic in South Asia, hav­ing pre­vi­ously in­ter­fered in Bhutan’s diplo­matic ac­tiv­i­ties and in the re­vi­sion of Nepal’s con­sti­tu­tion in 2015, he noted.

“Some small coun­tries in South Asia have hoped to ben­e­fit from China’s econ­omy and ad­mire China’s friendly at­ti­tude to­ward its neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. As China is de­vel­op­ing quickly, com­pe­ti­tion be­tween China and In­dia in South Asia will in­crease,” Qian said.

Un­con­di­tional with­drawal

The mil­i­tary stand­off in Dok­lam has lasted for al­most two months now. China has made it clear that there is no room for ne­go­ti­a­tion and the only so­lu­tion is the un­con­di­tional and im­me­di­ate with­drawal of In­dian troops.

“It’s no­tice­able that we’ve never seen Bhutan’s troops in Dok­lam, which tells China and the world that as a small coun­try ... Bhutan is be­ing con­trolled by In­dia and it can’t op­pose it openly,” Zhang said.

Chi­nese ex­perts said that they fear a greater pos­si­bil­ity of mil­i­tary clashes in Dok­lam as ten­sions have es­ca­lated in re­cent days.

In­dia on Thurs­day or­dered the evac­u­a­tion of 100 res­i­dents from Nathang vil­lage, 35 kilo­me­ters from Dok­lam, news site in­dia.com re­ported.

“In­dia has de­ployed more troops around the Dok­lam re­gion re­cently for an an­nual mil­i­tary ex­er­cise. The ex­er­cise, which is usu­ally held in late Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, has been brought for­ward. In­dia may want to bol­ster its sol­diers as well as pres­sure China,” Hu Zhiy­ong, a re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions of the Shang­hai Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, told the Global Times.

The Chi­nese for­eign min­istry said on Wed­nes­day that 53 peo­ple and a bull­dozer from the In­dian side re­mained in Chi­nese ter­ri­tory as of Mon­day. “In­dia should with­draw its troops and equip­ment. Re­gard­less of how many In­dian troops have tres­passed into and stayed in Chi­nese ter­ri­tory, they have gravely in­fringed on China’s sovereignty,” the min­istry said.

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