India uses Bhutan to secure New Delhi’s interest

India uses Bhutan to secure New Delhi’s interest

Wangcha Sangey,
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The recent Doklam event has many versions. The Indian media naturally had the versions of their government though they shared what the Chinese also said.
 
The best way to see the truth is to visit history of various events relating to Sino- Bhutan Border and compare with this recent inflated and manipulated Doklam incident. 
 
1. Initially from late 1960s and through 70s, the Government of India made attempts to discuss with China on the issue of China- Bhutan international border demarcation.   
 
2. China rejected all such attempts by India. China maintained that Bhutan which is a sovereign Kingdom should stand for herself and deal directly with China.
 
3. So India had to permit Bhutan to directly deal with China on the border issue. That was how the Border Talks began between Bhutan and China from the 1980s. Since then 24 rounds of Talks have taken place in most cordial manner. And much progress have been achieved. India was always kept in the loop by Bhutan.
 
4. It is possible that the public of Bhutan feel that the Talks are taking too long. Similar views also have been aired in the National Assembly of Bhutan . I understand the innocent frustrations. Under the past absolute Monarchy system, people are used to instant decisive decision of a King. Many do not understand the complexities involved in international boundary demarcation. The case is more perplexing since the Government is in no position to bare all the uncomfortable truths including heavy pressures from India to demand more strategic land from China.  
 
5. Also the Indo- Bhutan international boundary in the South was demarcated so quietly.  The public did not hear anything about Bhutan negotiating with India regarding her international border in the South with India. It is possible that Bhutan was in no position to negotiate. Bhutan is more vulnerable to a takeover by India than by China. Also Bhutan has no access to outside world except through India. And moreover,  Bhutanese economy and commerce are totally dependent on India including travel from West Bhutan to East Bhutan in the South of the Kingdom. Against such geopolitical constrictions, Bhutan probably had to accept at where ever the Survey of India decided to lay  the Indo- Bhutan international boundary pillars. Thus the quiet smoothness and the speed when one side makes decision for two sides.
 
6. The fact that China is willing to negotiate with Bhutan on the international boundary of the two nations is I believe a giant step forward for Bhutanese sovereignty. I am grateful to China for this sovereign courtesy. I am even more grateful to India for all the economic assistance  and freedom of trade and transit that enabled Bhutan to develop thus far. But I do love Bhutan ever more.
 
7. There is no doubt in my mind that Bhutan would want to finalise the Sino- Bhutan Border Talks and sign the Agreement. Bhutan has to be fully aware of the limitations of demands we can make upon China. And at the same time Bhutan is in no position to ignore the strategic interests of India. There is too much pressure. That is why  Doklam the tri-junction Plateau is drawing multi attentions. It will be a blessing in disguise if China or India forcefully just takeover  Doklam Plateau. The so called status quo is endangering the status of whole of Bhutan. 
 
8. For Bhutan, Doklam holds no extra strategic significance than any other part of the Kingdom.  But for both India and China, this Tri- junction is considered most vital. Unfortunately for India, the international boundary between Sikkim India and Tibet China at the Doklam Tri-Junction was decided long time back. So as vital as whole of Doklam Plateau is for Indian military strategic interest, there is not much that India can do through her State of Sikkim. The Sikkim door which India possessed is closed. 

9. India, therefore, is pushing Bhutan to claim as much as possible the part of Doklam Plateau in the Sino- Bhutan Border Talks. India knows that she has the clout to use Bhutanese territory to serve her strategic interest. So what India herself had forfeited in negotiation with China, she now wants Bhutan to re-claim. This places Bhutan in a very difficult position. Every inch of Bhutanese land is sacred. To claim land for our own is justifiable. But to demand disputed land from China for Indian strategic purposes could endanger Bhutan. In demanding more, Bhutan loses the moral ground  to even claim what is rightfully hers. 
 
9. Bhutan is placed in a near impossible position. China will never surrender the strategic position that  she had already gained at Doklam Plateau during  negotiation on international boundary with India ( State of Sikkim ). And India is insisting upon  Bhutan to wrest from China larger portion of Doklam Plateau that India could not get whilst negotiating with China on Sikkim-Tibet international boundary.
 
10. China wants to have better relation with the sovereign Kingdom of Bhutan. And wants to settle the border dispute in the interest of promoting closer ties including diplomatic relationship.  And  China has shown willingness to accommodate Bhutanese requests/ stand in other parts of the northern border. But not at the Tri-Junction where China shares border with Indian State of Sikkim and Bhutan. It seems that  China had made her position clear to India in regards to Doklam status even when negotiating with India on the internal boundary of the State of Sikkim which borders Doklam along with Tibet and Bhutan. There is no way that China will give in to India through Bhutan front. The Government of Bhutan knows this and wants to be realistic and conclude the negotiations without further adieu and sign the Sino- Bhutan Border Agreement. But Bhutan does not dare to sign the Agreement without the nod from India. In the end, China will keep exercising jurisdiction over Doklam Plateau and Bhutan always at merciful generosity of India.  
 
11. India is worried about the security of her so called chicken neck of the Siliguri corridor and thereby, the Eastern Frontier States.  Maybe that was the reason of takeover of Sikkim. In the same manner, China is worried about the future security of her narrow Chumbi Valley stretch and thereby the whole of Tibet. China seems to considers Doklam Plateau as vital to her as Sikkim is to India. I feel we have to face the reality. China may not wait forever for Bhutan to get Indian clearance. Chinese security concerns would out weigh any ties including with Bhutan. 
 
12. Presently the international boundary in eastern Bhutan has not been demarcated even with India . The sticking point is that Arunachal Pradesh South Tibet) is on the other side. And China claims part of Arunachal. So later, like Doklam, there is bound to be similar Tri- Juction situation. And there, too, China would not be compromising her national security for friendship with Bhutan. So considering all aspects, it may be also in India’s interest to let Bhutan sign the Sino-Bhutan Border Agreement. The gesture could contribute towards reaching reasonable agreement towards drawing the Sino- India Arunachal border demarcation. Confidence building is a must in negotiation. 
 
13.  China will not budge in Sino – Bhutan Border negotiation where Bhutan is deemed to act as a proxy for Indian strategic interests. At times during Sino – Bhutan Border Talks, China may have been suspicious of India directing the negotiations from Bhutan side. And this time with India openly declaring that she had interfered on behalf of Bhutan at Doklam confirms that all along Bhutan has been actually acting as a proxy for Indian Doklam interest. This will harden Chinese resolve. 
 
14. The Bhutanese Army at Doklam would not  approach the Indian Army stationed on the Sikkim side in regards to any issue with China. Bhutan is well aware that directly involving India is an act of surrendering sovereignty to another nation. It took many years and much diplomatic and political maneuvering to convince India to let Bhutan negotiate directly with China. Bhutanese leaders must demonstrate more courageous wisdom and resolve if Sino- Bhutan Border Agreement  is to be successfully signed.
 
I know for a fact that Bhutanese soldiers at Border out -posts take their responsibility sincerely and courageously and independent of Indian Army.  It is an insult to RBA and the nation  to even insinuate that Bhutanese officers and soldiers, on their own,  cannot deal with Chinese forces at the border. I had, therefore, objected to Tenzing Lamsang’s  narration to the Bhutanese public the foreign propaganda materials that glorifies Indian Army at the expense of Royal Bhutan Army. RBA may be trained and funded by India but our Defence Force has independant Bhutanese national heart and responsibility. RBA has always fulfilled the task of securing Bhutanese Borders and cleansing the nation of any intruders including from India.  
 
Conclusion:
 
Royal Bhutan Army outposts at the Sino- Bhutan border are there to carry out their defence tasks. Our officers and soldiers are not posted there to warm the chilly mountain air with their breath. They do not run to Indian Army to seek help to execute their own national defence task. Numerous Sino- Bhutan incidents have taken place in the past. And in all those incidents,  the Royal Bhutan Army, the Chief of Operations or the Supreme Commander has never sought help of Indian Army to face Chinese troops at the Sino- Bhutan Border. 
 
For general readers. I have one point of clarification. It is true that within Bhutan,  there are Indian military presences as declared by India.  And yes, Bhutanese Army is trained by India and even funded by India. But all this is not for defence of Bhutan. It is for the security of India. In the defence strategy plan  of India against China, India counts on Bhutan’s ability to secure her international borders with China. So Indian military is in Bhutan for defence of India. And likewise Indian Army’s recent action at Doklam Plateau has nothing to do with Bhutanese national interest or with Bhutanese Security Force at Doklam.
 
The demarche issued on 20th June by Bhutan Embassy in New Delhi to Chinese Embassy is a normal happening. Both China and Bhutan follow this diplomatic procedure to air any misgivings or clear any misunderstandings at the borders. The soldiers of China and Bhutan do not engage in unruly jostling or play kapadi kind of pushing and catching game at the Sino- Bhutan border. It must also be noted that the Bhutanese Government referred to road being built in “disputed area”. Not ” inside undisputed ”  Bhutanese territory. It said ” maintain status quo” which is different from allegation of encroachment into Bhutanese Security  Force  manned Bhutanese territory.  
 
The Press Release by Bhutanese Foreign Ministry on 29th June is out of norm. A kind of political ” cry Wolf “.  Bhutan usually acts quietly with dignity. Who was Bhutan appealing to in the Press Release with all the history ? If it was China whom we were addressing then there was no need of history as they are party to all the history. This unusual propaganda type of Press Release may have been issued at Indian request to consolidate their weak stand in the international arena. Unfortunately, in so doing, the Bhutanese Government may have further complicated a complex issue.

Source:Global Times Published


[The recent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops at the Sikkim section of China-India border has raised speculation over India’s real intention behind its provocation. Wangcha Sangey, a legal consultant from Bhutan, recently published an article in his blog titled “Understanding Sino-Bhutan border issues at Doklam. Search for truth,” which provides a look into the incident from another perspective. This is an excerpt from his article.]

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