China Is Increasing Pressure in Bhutan

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Here is what you must know about China’s Territorial Aggressiveness in Bhutan.

China is in the limelight again. Beijing is trying to expand its geographical area by building a new village near the China- Bhutan- India border. This could be a looming source of tension among the three economies considering how important the Gyalaphug region is for China, Bhutan and India.

Emerging satellite images have shown Beijing constructing villages in the uninhabited stretches in the Tibet region particularly along its disputed border points with Bhutan and India. Expert opinions have revealed that this could only be a move to buttress China’s territorial claims in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Wu Yingjie, the Communist Party Secretary encouraged the occupants of Gyalaphug, the new Tibetan village to “put down roots like Kalsang flowers in the borderland of snows” and “raise the bright five-star red flag high.”

The Gyalaphug Region and China

Even with these remarks, it is important to note that rather than the other villages in TAR, Gyalaphug could stir heated wrangles among the three states considering its nature as a distinct territory. 

First, Gyalaphug is legally situated in the Lhuntse district of northern Bhutan. 

This only reveals that Beijing took a bullish move to cross an international border. China disregarded this fact and moved on to plant its settlers, security forces and military facilities in the disputed area.

Second, India has great interests in Gyalaphug considering its strategic location. There are possibilities  that the Indian government may not have raised direct concerns over the latest developments in the Gyalaphug stretch.  However, the entire stretch is strategically sensitive to the operations of India considering its geography and proximity.

Third, there are chances that letting the Chinese government occupy and establish a strong grip over the Gyalaphug area and the greater TAR stretch could be detrimental to both India and Bhutan. Most importantly, the TAR area is of critical significance to the valuable Siliguri corridor and a key connector of the Northern India region with New Delhi. This notes why India is fighting against China’s occupancy.  

Bhutan Is Critical To China and India For Different Reasons

The fact that Gyalaphug is strategically located stirs India’s worries about allowing China to establish “illegal” villages. Crucially, sections of the villages established by China in the TAR area are only 50km wide. India has developed worries that allowing China’s occupancy in the TAR area will make New Delhi lose control over the northeastern area particularly when faced with war as it will pave way for Beijing to exert control on the corridor from the Yadong area.

Bhutan is at a point of total confusion. It has to choose between China’s package deal (which will lead to the seizure of one of its highly sacred areas) or maintain its ties with India by rejecting Beijing’s move to occupy Gyalaphug.

At the same time, it has no real choice. It can choose to back down and cede control over crucial parts to China, thus, making it partially under the control of the CCP or it can choose to take actions that rebuff these aggressive activities. The CCP’s actions on Bhutan is another part of its regular struggle with India.

The region has seen minor conflict with several casualties over the past year in the Himalayan region. Tensions between the two countries are still at moderate levels and both have upped their defenses along the current area of conflict. Various reports indicate that China has taken actions such as aiming modified rocket launchers at the border of India. This presents problems as both of these countries are crucial in in the present world economy.

Further, it shows there is rising tensions in key economic areas across the world. From Turkey to China, and the migration crisis from the Middle East to Italy and other EU countries, conflicts elsewhere are spilling over into the modern Western world.