10 Interesting Facts About Doklam

10 Interesting Facts About Doklam

10 Interesting Facts About Doklam

Doklam is in the limelight, with a standoff between 700 Indian and Chinese troops over this tri-junction of Bhutan, China and India. Doklam is more than just a border dispute. It is an area teeming with rich history and culture, apart from unique geopolitical advantages. Here we get you some very interesting facts about this region and what it means for Indo-China relations:

1. The many names of Doklam

In standard Tibetan, Doklam is called Zhoglam. In Dzonghka and Chomo Tibetan, it is called nDroklam. The plateau is referred to as Donglang in Mandarin Chinese. This is a narrow plateau lying at the triple junction of Bhutan, India and China. So, its strategic geographic location makes it a prize for China.

2. The geopolitical advantage

Doklam is situated in the area near the modern Yadong country of the Tibetan autonomous region and Bhutan's Ha Valley. This dispute is actually between Bhutan and China.

What makes Doklam such a hot topic for debate? Its unique strategic location is surely the reason. Doklam is situated 15km southeast of Nathu La pass connecting India and Tibet. It is around 30 km southwest of the Dramana Chhu river disputed between Bhutan and China.

With the Chumbi Valley to the south and the Doka la (marked as Troka La on old maps) , a pass at 27°17'22”N 88°54'50”E joins the Indian Sikkim state with Tibet in China. Linking Sikkim and Western Bhutan, this plateau region has a crucial value for India.

3. The rich history

The 1890 Anglo Chinese treaty was signed between British Commissioner A. W Paul and China's Ho Chang-Jung to negotiate the trade relations and demarcate boundaries along the Chumbi valley. The written agreements of 1988 and 1998 ensures both countries maintained peace and status quo in the region. But in 2017, China reached and extended a road in Doklam triggering a massive standoff and demarche against the Eastern nation from Bhutan.

4. The unique culture

The tripoint has the Tibetan Mochuu and other rivers close by. The Mochu River today is more commonly called the Amo Chu or, further south, the Torsa River. The mountain crest or watershed begins near Batang La. Gangtok is close by with villages that embody Sikkim's rich tribal heritage and culture.

5. Long standing dispute

Bhutan and China have had 24 rounds of boundary talks since 1984. The Bhutanese royal government has held that the Doklam plateau construction amounts to unilateral changes to disputed China boundary in violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between the two nations. Force cannot be used and both parties have to adhere to peace norms.

6. Doka La: Where the action begins

In 2017, Doka La was the focus of a standoff between Indian and Chinese armed forces. China aimed to extend the Yoadong road on the Doklam plateau. While India does not claim Doklam, it supports the Bhutanese side. The ridge is viewed as the border by China but as wholly within Bhutan by both Bhutan and India, extends eastward approaching India's highly-strategic Siliguri corridor.

7. Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty

On 18 June, Indian troops apparently crossed into the territory in dispute between China and Bhutan in an attempt to prevent the road construction. In a 1949 treaty, Bhutan agreed to let India guide its foreign policy and defence affairs. In 2007, the treaty was superseded by a new friendship treaty that replaced the provision that made it mandatory for Bhutan to take India's guidance on foreign policy, providing broader sovereignty to Bhutan and not requiring it to obtain India's permission over arms imports. With close bilateral ties, the Doklam intervention is a natural progression of the Friendship Treaty.

8. China's Claim

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested to China against the construction of a road in the disputed territory. On the same day, the Bhutanese border was put on high alert and border security was tightened as a result of the growing tensions. On the same day, China released a map depicting Doklam as part of China. China claimed, via the map, that territory south to Gipmochi belonged to China and claimed it was supported by the 1890 Britain-China treaty.

On 3 July 2017, China told India that former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the 1890 Britain-China treaty. China claimed on 5 July 2017 it had for the past 24 months a “basic consensus” with Bhutan that Doklam belonged to China, and there was no dispute between the two countries.

9. The Indian Stand

Contrary to Chinese claim, Nehru’s 26 September 1959 letter to Zhou, cited by China, was a point-by-point refutation of the claims made by the latter on 8 September 1959. Nehru made is amply clear in his refutal that the 1890 treaty defined only the northern part of the Sikkim-Tibet border and not the tri-junction area. Nehru in his reply had made it clear boundaries of Sikkim and Bhutan did not fall within the scope of the discussion.

10. Tri-junction: Point or Area?

The so-called tri-junction, as the name suggests, is a point, according to China. India interprets it as an area. Herein lies the dichotomy and debate. On 19 July 2017 China renewed its call for India to withdraw its troops from Doklam. It followed reports that claimed China held live firing drills in the region. A debate is on for formula for defusing the crisis in the remote Doklam plateau, where Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a lengthy stand-off.

The Bottom Line

India is strategically located at the heart of China’s energy lifeline and the Belt and Road Initiative, and offending India will only push it into the rival camp. The Doklam face-off can even be seen as an opportunity to finally resolve the China-India border row. The closest hamlet to Doklam, Gangtok's Kuppup faces the brunt of the Chinese excursion. Right now, Doklam row is more than a tense month-long standoff over a dispute triggered by Beijing’s claim over the territory.

At stake is something far more than the immediate crisis over the land in Doklam. What is at stake is the future of India’s relations with China.

Doklam clearly stands for a lot more than just a border dispute.
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