Thursday, July 13, 2017

China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan

Most of the maps show Batang-la as the trijunction Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan
My article China is on a sticky wicket in Bhutan appeared last week in the Mail Daily/Mail Online (UK)

Here is the link...

Has China lost its gamble on a Himalayan ridge in Sikkim? It is too early to say, but some lessons can already be drawn from the scuffle between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army in Doka La, near the trijunction between Tibet (China), India and Bhutan.
The episode started when China began building a road on Bhutanese territory without informing Thimphu.
Beijing was certainly not expecting that India would come to the rescue and defend the small kingdom.
China, which dreams of becoming a 'Big Power', attempted to change the status quo south of the Doklam plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border.


On June 29, the Royal Government of Bhutan, which had held 24 rounds of talks on the issue with China so far, explained the situation in a statement: 'On 16th June 2017, the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Doka La in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri.
'Boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquillity in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question...
'The agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.'
Bhutan conveyed to Beijing that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the agreements and that it would affect the ongoing demarcation process.
On June 30, 2017, the MEA too issued a press communiqué underlining that 'the two governments had in 2012 reached agreement that the trijunction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries.
'Any attempt, therefore, to unilaterally determine tri-junction points is in violation of this understanding.'
Beijing was well aware that the area has been under dispute for several decades; already some 50 years ago, nasty letters were exchanged between Delhi and Beijing on the issue.
The first lesson of the present episode is that India is eons behind China in terms of communication.
Though Beijing broke its pledge to Bhutan and India, the constant threatening statements by their spokesperson made it sound as if Beijing was the aggrieved party.
In 2003, China's Central Military Commission approved the concept of 'Three Warfares', namely: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defence policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad.
The Chinese spokespersons efficiently demonstrated how, even when wrong, you can make it appear that it is the other parties, Bhutan and India in this case, who are the culprits.

Take the case of the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson managed to convince most of the Indian and foreign media of the importance of the treaty.
Beijing, however, forgot to mention that the two main stakeholders, Tibet and Sikkim, had not even been consulted by the then 'Great Imperial Powers'.
Tsepon WD Shakabpa, the famous historian, in his Tibet: a Political History, explained that in 1890, a convention was drawn up without consulting the government of Tibet: '…six articles related to Tibet, and since (Tibet) was not represented at the Convention, those articles were not allowed to be put into practice by the Tibetans.'
Shakabpa added: 'The British were aware that China exercised no real power in Tibet at that time; but it suited their interests to deal with the Manchus, because of the advantages they gained from the Convention.'
An unequal treaty in Chinese parlance! The Manchus agreed to 'offer' Sikkim to the British as they were afraid that Tibet and Britain might enter into direct negotiations with London; therefore, they signed the treaty to forestall such a possibility.
In 1904, Capt Francis Younghusband anyway mounted a military expedition to Tibet to make the recalcitrant Tibetans sign their first agreement with the Crown.
China has always been interested to create a wedge between India and Bhutan.
In 1966, in similar circumstances, for the same disputed place, the Dokham plateau, the Chinese government attempted to convince Delhi that Bhutan did not require India's support 'as it was an independent country'.
The Communists did not accept that Delhi could advise Bhutan; they crudely wrote: 'inheriting the mantle of British imperialism, the Indian Government has all along been pursuing an expansionist policy and bullying its neighbouring countries.'
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China (stock photo)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016 in Hangzhou, China (stock photo)
As at present, the Bhutanese Government had issued a press statement on October 3, 1966: 'The Government of Bhutan have, for some time, been concerned with reports received from its patrols of a number of intrusions by Tibetan grazers and Chinese troops in the Doklam pastures which are adjacent to the southern part of the Chumbi Valley.'
It concluded that the area has been traditionally part of Bhutan, and China had never disputed 'the traditional frontier which runs along recognisable natural features.'
However, later, China started claiming large strategic chunks of Bhutan's territory.
Incidentally, Article 1 of the much quoted 1890 Convention placed the trijunction at Gipmochi: 'The line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nepal territory.'
According to Sikkimese records, Gipmochi is in Batang La, 5 km north of Doka La.
It means the territory south of Batang La is indeed Bhutanese, and therefore India did not 'trespass' into Tibet.
So, why all this fuss?

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