India-Bhutan team up?

India-Bhutan team up?
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has met with her Bhutanese counterpart Damcho Dorji. The meeting comes during the ongoing military stand-off between India..

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has met with her Bhutanese counterpart Damcho Dorji.

The meeting comes during the ongoing military stand-off between India and China in the Doklam plateau.

Background

In June 2017, a skirmish broke out between Indian and Chinese troops at the Doklam plateau. Indian soldiers had intervened the construction work being conducted by China in the region. The area is a disputed territory between Bhutan (an Indian ally) and China. Indian officials have said that there are about 300 soldiers on either side of the plateau.

China had called on India to immediately withdraw the troops but the latter did not acquiesce. India, for its part, has said that Chinese actions in the plateau is a direct security concern. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that India will engage in dialogue once both sides withdraw troops simultaneously.

Analysis

China has issued stern warnings to India as the impasse continues. In its strongest message yet, it told India not to “push its luck.” In July 2017, Chinese Defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said, “Our military means to secure our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity has strengthened and our determination has never wavered. It is easier to shake a mountain than to shake the PLA."

Recently a Chinese diplomat Wang Wenli claimed that that Bhutan had conveyed to Beijing that the area of the standoff is not its territory. Bhutan has disputed this comment. In June 2017 Bhutan noted, “Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, 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.” Bhutan has continued to stand by its initial statement.

Sushma Swaraj is currently in Kathmandu to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the countries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). It was here that she met with Damcho Dorji. According to media reports, a bilateral discussion between the two foreign ministers took place.

No official details have been divulged regarding what was discussed between Swaraj and Dorji.

Assessment

Our assessment is that India will need Bhutan’s support at the tri junction to get China to agree to a resolution. 

Comments