India's pretext for border intrusion deceitful

By CHEN WEIHUA | | Updated: 2017-08-18 04:45

The border standoff between China and India has entered the third month since Indian troops illegally intruded into China's Donglang area. India claims that it acted at Bhutan's request. However, a New York Times article on Tuesday is quite telling and shows that it may well not be the case.

In the article filed from Bhutan, Times' reporter Steven Lee Myers revealed that the latest standoff has inflamed festering resentments over India's influence in Bhutan. He found that many in Bhutan suspect that India has sought to block Bhutan's efforts to establish diplomatic relations and expand trade with Beijing, fearing that a rapprochement could remove the strategic buffer that Bhutan provides.

Many interviewed by Myers in Bhutan expressed more concern about India's actions than China's. Some noted that one effect of India's move — intended or not — has been to undermine border negotiations with China that could have cleared the way for closer economic ties.

China and Bhutan have held 24 rounds of talks since the 1980s and reached common understanding on the basics of their borders.

India has been clearly unhappy that Bhutan looks for closer ties with Beijing. One evidence Myers cited is that in 2012, Bhutan's prime minister at the time met with his Chinese counterpart at a Group of 20 summit meeting in Rio de Janeiro. Not long afterward, India cut subsidies to Bhutan for cooking oil and kerosene. The move was widely seen as retaliation, and the ruling party in Bhutan lost the next election.

Contrary to what India has claimed, Myers found that when India ordered its troops across the border on June 16, it seemed to do so without a request from Bhutan. He wrote that India's intervention has not resulted in much gratitude there. On the contrary, many in Bhutan feel that India's protective embrace has become suffocating.

All this shows that India has been trying to hijack a small sovereign neighbor country for its own purpose, rather than the pretext it has been using -- to act on Bhutan's behalf.

In fact, nothing in the so-called "special relationship" between India and Bhutan would justify such illegal intrusion into Donglang to stop a Chinese road construction – a road project that would benefit local economic development but India believes would give China advantage in a strategically important area.

There is no border dispute in the Donglang area (known in Bhutan as Doklam) between China and India. The borderline, demarcated by the Anglo-Chinese Convention Relating to Sikkim and Tibet in 1890, has not been contested but accepted by successive Indian governments since its independence 70 years ago this week.

Besides, the place for the current standoff is said to be more than 2 km away from the so-called tri-junction, where China, India, Bhutan borders converge.

Donglang has been in China's actual control. Chinese border troops patrol the area in the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, which Indian troops violated on June 16.

It is true that the border standoff should be resolved diplomatically. Military conflict will neither serve India's nor China's best interest. That is why China has been exercising the utmost restraint so far in front of Indian troops' incursion. But India should simply drop its hypocritical pretext that it is acting on Bhutan's behalf, rather than its own ulterior motivation, as the New York Times article reveals.

It means that India's troops should withdraw from the territory that they intruded.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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