At Doklam, Human Chains Face-off, Soldiers Replaced Every 2 Hours

For the last 30 days at least, 350-odd Indian soldiers have been standing in a human chain, eyeball to eyeball with Chinese troops at Dhoka La in Bhutan. Armed, but guns pointed down, the two lines of soldiers stand just metres apart. The lines stretch across 500-odd meters, in an area located roughly 15 km from the Nathu La pass.

The stand-off at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and Sikkim has persisted since June 6. As New Delhi tries all options, including diplomatic contact with Beijing, to resolve the situation, the situation on Ground Zero is cold and stagnant.

Top sources have told NDTV that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones have spotted Chinese soldiers, around 3,000 men and light machinery, around a kilometer behind its human chain. India, too, has forces and light machinery behind its human chain.

On the rugged terrain, around 4,500 metres above the sea level, the air is thin. The soldiers of the Indian Army are replaced every two hours. The face-off continues round the clock.

China’s target, sources say, is the Jamphari Ridge which lies south of Dhoka La. Control over it would mean that China will virtually overlook the “Chicken’s Neck” – a thin stretch of land that links mainland India to the seven northeastern states. At its widest, the Chicken’s Neck stretches for just 23 km.

The dispute is over where India, China and Bhutan meet. India claims the tri-junction is at Batang La. China claims it is at Gymochen, 6.5 km further south.

The stand-off is expected to find resonance in parliament, with Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party demanding a discussion. While the opposition has agreed to back the government on a situation that concerns national security, Ms Banerjee has blamed the Centre for failing to resolve the situation.

Calling Bengal, the state that shares border with Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan “the worst sufferer”, Ms Banerjee said, “If Sikkim goes under Chinese control — and there is no difference between Sikkim and Darjeeling — then because of the mistake of the Centre, its diplomatic failure, the way the relations have deteriorated with China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan…Bengal is sandwiched.”

China contends that Indian soldiers had crossed the border to stop it from constructing a road on a plateau in what it calls the Donglang region. India sides with Bhutan, which claims that the road was built on its soil – an area it calls Dhoka La or sometimes Doklam — which is a plateau about 30 km north as the crow flies, of the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.

Amid the stand-off, the Chinese army has conducted military drills in nearby Tibet, which included targeting enemy aircraft and tanks.

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