Indian Army and China’s PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have been locked in a stand off mode on the Dolam plateau in Doklam area. While Bejing resorted to sending fierce warnings, New Delhi has maintained that diplomatic dialogue is the only way to resolve the issue. China claimed that it is their own territory. India strongly refuted that by saying Bhutan and the world support New Delhi’s bold move. As the tension escalates, take a look at what this Dolam plateau is and why it has become a bone of contention between these countries.
1. The standoff is at Dolam plateau, which is in the Doklam area as referred to in the statements of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of Bhutan in New Delhi. However, the Dolam plateau is different from Doklam plateau. The Doklam plateau lies around 30 km to the north east of Dolam plateau. Doklam is called Donglang by China, according to Indian Express report.
2. The trijunction is the point where the borders of India (Sikkim), Bhutan and China (Tibet) meet. The trijunction is disputed — India claims it as Batang La, while China claims it is around 6.5 km to the south, at Gymochen.
3. The 220-km boundary in Sikkim is not the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as is the case with the rest of the 3,488 km India-China border. Notably, the border between China and India in the Sikkim section is seen as ‘settled’, as the basis for alignment has been agreed between the two countries.
4. The standoff began after the Chinese started work on extending an unmetalled track in Bhutanese territory, and were prevented by Indian troops. Bhutan and India believe the Chinese have an eye on the Jampheri ridge to the south, a feature of enormous strategic significance.
5. On June 8, PLA soldiers came in and destroyed two self help bunkers (SHBs) on the eastern slope of the ridge, slightly north of Doka La. On June 16, some 100 men arrived at the site with 4-5 bulldozers and earthmoving machines to begin work on extending the track southward towards the Jampheri ridge.
6. It has been learned that as soon as the Chinese track construction party started survey and alignment work on the Dolam plateau, Indian soldiers came down from Doka La and formed a human chain to physically prevent the Chinese from working. The Indians also moved down earthmoving machinery with an aim to undo the work to be done by the Chinese. These dozers were highlighted in the pictures that the Chinese Foreign Ministry released on June 29.
7. While the equipment continues to be on standby, soldiers from both sides have pitched tents in the area. There are 300-350 Indian soldiers in the area under a Commanding Officer. The Chinese troops are from the PLA’s 6 Border Defence regiment (Unit-77649), the IE report.
8. While Indian insistence on stopping the track construction is in line with its claims on the location of the trijunction, the main reason for taking a strong stance is the military importance of the Jampheri ridge. While access to the Jampheri ridge will reduce China’s distance to the chicken’s neck in the Siliguri Corridor to around 50 km.