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China architects new problems for India-Bhutan

China’s aggressive push is not limited to its attempt at altering the status quo in the East China Sea, South China Sea and with India but with the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan too. According to a report published by Stratnews Global coming from Washington DC, China raised a new, non-existent dispute with Bhutan at a virtual meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) held as recently as June 2-3. The Council was meeting to decide on funding for various environmental projects across the world. One of the projects seeking funds was the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district bordering India (Arunachal Pradesh) and China.

As the SWS request came up for discussion, sources said, the Chinese member of the GEF Council raised objections against the proposal contending that the sanctuary was located in a disputed area between Bhutan and China.

Earlier, Bhutan has issued a clarification regarding media allegations that the country has stopped the supply of irrigation water to areas in Assam. It called these reports “totally baseless” and a “deliberate attempt by vested interests to cause misunderstanding between the friendly people of Bhutan & Assam”.

Also read: India- Bhutan relations: Happiest Country turning Finicky?

The response came after reports of farmers of the adjoining areas of Tamulpur, Baksa district in Assam, near the Bhutan border of Kalipur, Bogajuli, Kalandi leaving their fields to protests on roads. The farmers of areas in the vicinity of Bhutan including Samdrop Jhankar in Assam, India are dependent on the Kalindi river as they operate on a rain-fed irrigation model.

The locals divert the water from Kalindi by creating passages through mud and stones and direct the water through drains which they later use to carry on their farming activities. Since this is a delicate way to direct water, it requires continuous maintenance. As such, the locals themselves maintain the set up. “Due to the lockdown, we have not been able to go to Bhutan as International Borders are closed. After the heavy rains, the passage has been disrupted and now we have no supply of water” said a protester.

Bhutan initially repaired the passage, but following the recent heavy rains, have stopped doing it. As a result, the local farmers from the Assam side have no water to plough their land.

Inside Northeast reported it correctly. However, some segments of media reported it to be a case of Bhutan blocking water to Assam and few even questioned India-Bhutan diplomatic relations.

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