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Politics & Law

Do not forget Bhutan in the India-China border dispute

Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan on 12 Aug 2012. (photo from China’s Foreign Ministry)

The Doklam standoff since 18 June 2017 is getting people worried that a small-scale but very damaging combat might take place as these observers focused on the clash between India and China without looking into the details about Bhutan.

The standoff began when around 270 Indian soldiers entered Doklam, a territory in dispute between China and Bhutan, when Chinese workers attempted to build a road section crossing this district.

In the light of New Delhi’s ‘no war no peace’ strategy of eventuality and Tokyo’s high profile support behind India in this issue, many analysts tend to think that a fight would be inevitable.

Finally, I found someone holds a view similar to mine. Bertil Lintner’s Asia Times article on August 21 has a remarkable insight at which I very much agreed:

“India’s reaction to the roadworks may have been exactly what the Chinese wanted. It appears that India was left with no choice but to walk right into a diplomatic trap. The move has made India appear as the belligerent party and at the same time caused concern in Bhutan where India’s military presence is a politically sensitive issue.”

Lintner’s article provides a precise and concise history of Bhutan’s relation with India as well as the recent extension of friendly hands by China to Bhutan. While almost all the news and opinions in the West on the standoff totally ignored Bhutan, they overlooked that “Bhutan is eager to lessen its dependence on India and show the world that is a truly independent nation. The Doklam dispute has therefore led to mixed reactions in Bhutan. The Bhutanese don’t want the Chinese so close to home, but India’s overt intervention could be viewed as reverting to the status of an Indian protectorate.”

I have no access to the happenings inside Bhutan as I do not know the languages there — Tibeto-Burman and Nepali. However, only a fool would neglect Bhutan’s role and weight in this standoff. Perhaps, the Modi government has gradually realized its dilemma, and on 21 August, Home Minister Rajnath Singh “said the deadlock between India and China will be resolved soon and expressed hope that China would also take positive steps in this regard”. However, he did not explain anything how the deadlock could be resolved. Next day, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not give a positive echo to Singh and instead simply reiterated the request for unconditional withdrawal of the Indian army.

The present mainstream proposal for a strategy of eventuality by the leading pundits in India would actually weaken the India-Bhutan relationship, and India’s enlisting of Japan and the United States into this matter would only make it worse.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).



  1. Pingback: Is Modi joining the Indo-Pacific containment of China, or not? | China Daily Mail - May 30, 2018

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