Building Project in Eastern Himalayas Raises Tensions Between India and China

Activists shout slogans against China during a protest in New Delhi July 4, 2017. The protest was over China’s decision to suspend pilgrimages to a sacred site in Tibet following tension between Indian and Chinese troops along the India-China border.

A tense standoff between India and China over a Chinese road-building project in the eastern Himalayas is ratcheting up tensions between the two Asian neighbors and is being described by analysts as their most serious border confrontation in recent decades.

Both sides are calling on each other to back down. China wants India to withdraw its troops from the plateau, which lies at the heart of the current dispute, while New Delhi has expressed deep concern that the road construction would significantly change the status quo with serious security implications for India.

The Doklam plateau on which the dispute erupted lies at a junction between the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, Bhutan and China. It is claimed by both Beijing and Bhutan – a close ally of India.

Although not part of India, the plateau is of huge strategic importance to New Delhi as control over it would give Chinese troops easy access to a narrow strip of Indian territory known as “Chicken’s Neck,” which connects India’s far northeast to the rest of the country.

Reports of what exactly happened in the high, remote Himalayan mountains differ. China has accused Indian troops of obstructing a road building project in the area. An Indian foreign ministry statement has said that Indian personnel “approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo.”

Bhutan has also asked China to stop the road building project, saying it violates agreements between the two sides. Bhutan, historically close to New Delhi, does not have diplomatic ties with Beijing.

With the face-off showing no signs of easing, India and China have reinforced troops in the region.

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SOURCE: VOA News, Anjana Pasricha