The Doklam plateau issue rose to the limelight when, in 2017, under the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and road building equipment, began extending an existing road southward in Doklam. Doklam is a disputed area between India, Bhutan and China. While owing to its hegemonic desires, China claims the entirety of the plateau, India maintains the dignity of historical treaties. Bhutan, who even agreed to coordinate its foreign policy with that of India, under agreements like the Friendship Treaty, is now being heavily pressurised by the CCP to change its stand owing to which Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, recently made claims stating that “China has equal stake in Doklam dispute” as it is not up to Bhutan alone to solve the Doklam dispute and that all three countries – Bhutan, India and China are equal stakeholders.
China has been toying with Bhutan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity for decades – sometimes by showing large parts of Bhutan as part of China in Chinese maps, sometimes by building heavy infrastructure in Bhutan’s territory, but mostly by trying to construct illegal sites in the disputed areas. What Bhutan doesn’t understand is that China is trying to shift the disputed tri-junction southward, which would make the entire Doklam plateau legally a part of China – which is in close proximity to India’s strategic Siliguri Corridor.
Bhutan’s position might look like it has limited options when it comes to stopping China’s increasing encroachment on Bhutan’s territory but it is very crucial for Bhutan to not get lured by the cheesy words of the CCP and take a pacifist stand – as taking side with China just might fetch the exact opposite outcome. In the past few years, Asia has become the target of CCP’s cruel ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’, major examples being Pakistan (so called “all weather friend” of China), Sri Lanka, Mongolia and even Nepal. All these countries were exploited by China for its own personal gains, rendering them reliable on China and eventually losing access to their own natural resources and infrastructure.
We, at Red Lantern Analytica, would like to alert Bhutan to not fall trap to China’s dubious claims and reciprocate the gusto which India has always shown in trying to resolve Bhutan’s conflicts with China. Bhutan must take its own clear stand, uninfluenced by the hinges of China. The Doklam issue is a sensitive geopolitical issue of which Bhutan is an indispensable part; therefore Prime Minister Lotay Tshering must take into consideration the interests of both India and Bhutan before caving in to the whims and fancies of the CCP.