China pushing in Bhutan, India to test neighbour’s response, says US
China is attempting territorial claims in Bhutan and the recent incursion into Indian land are indicative of their intentions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, adding that Beijing under President Xi Jinping was trying to find out whether other countries are going to push back, as published in NDTV.
Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a bitter standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh since May 5. The situation deteriorated last month following the Galwan Valley clashes that left 20 Indian Army personnel dead.
China recently staked claim over the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan at the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council and opposed funding to the project.
In late May, Chinese forces objected to Indian road construction in the Galwan River valley. According to Indian sources, melee fighting on 15/16 June 2020 resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers (including an officer) and casualties of 43 Chinese soldiers (including death of an officer). Media reports stated that soldiers were taken captive on both sides and released in the coming few days. On the Indian side ten soldiers were reported to have been taken captive while the Chinese numbers remain unconfirmed. It was only on 25 July that reports of disengagement at Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra emerged. As of 30 July, disengagement remained incomplete at Pangong Tso and at PP 17A Gogra while “complete disengagement and de-escalation” between India and China was remaining.
Amid the standoff, India reinforced the region with 12,000 additional workers, who would assist India’s Border Roads Organisation in completing the development of Indian infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border. Experts have postulated that the standoffs are Chinese pre-emptive measures in responding to the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road infrastructure project in Ladakh. The Chinese have also extensively developed their infrastructure in these disputed border regions. The revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019, by the Indian government has also troubled the Chinese. However, India and China have both maintained that there are enough bilateral mechanisms to resolve the situation through quiet diplomacy.
Following the Galwan Valley skirmish on 15 June, numerous Indian government officials said that border tensions will not impact trade between India and China despite some Indian campaigns about boycotting Chinese products. However, in the following days, various types of action were taken on the economic front including cancellation and additional scrutiny of certain contracts with Chinese firms, and calls were also made to stop the entry of the Chinese into strategic markets in India such as the telecom sector.
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