Beijing has ordered 500 soldiers to accompany construction workers as they once again try to extend a road on the Doklam Plateau region that sits along China’s border with its regional rival India after New Delhi thwarted the communist country’s first attempt to expand the lane.
Beijing and Indian-backed Bhutan have claimed Doklam, known as Donglang in China, as their territory.
“India backs Bhutan’s claim to the region and has made it clear that it will not tolerate any infrastructure that would allow China access to the Chicken’s Neck, located just south of Doklam,” reports NDTV.
“Chicken’s Neck” refers to a thin land corridor that connects western and eastern India.
Tensions between Beijing and New Delhi have been escalating in recent months, particularly in the Doklam region where Indian troops “physically prevented” China from stretching the road earlier this year.
Referring to India’s neighbor to the north—China—Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat reportedly cautioned nearly a month ago:
As far as the Northern adversary is concerned, flexing of muscles has started. Salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits or threshold is something we have to be wary about. Remain prepared for situations that are emerging gradually into conflict.
Early this year, New Delhi foiled Beijing’s first attempt to expand the road, prompting “an aggressive standoff” between China and India at the Sikkim border region described as “the worst in decades,” reports NDTV, noting:
Thwarted in its last attempt, China has now shifted its unused road construction material North and East of the face-off site. Road construction workers brought into the area are accompanied by up to 500 soldiers though there are no indicators that these soldiers will be permanently based in the area—the Chinese town of Yatung, which is less than 20 km [about 12 miles] away as the crow flies, is a few hours by road and accommodates them. Neither are there signs of permanent structures to accommodate Chinese soldiers in the area which is snow-bound and bitterly cold in the winter.
The China-India confrontation reportedly wound down near the end of August, but now Beijing has returned for a second shot at building the road on Doklam Plateau territory that sits just over 6 miles from the location of the last China-India standoff.
Ultimately, “after nearly 70 days [from mid-June] of soldiers from both sides staring down at each other just 150 meters apart, the conflict, described as the worst in decades, subsided with both countries accepting that they were withdrawing their troops, though details were sketchy,” explains NDTV.
“Chinese officers said the weather would be among the factors that would determine its plans for construction,” notes NDTV.
Fast forward about a month, to where Chinese construction workers are reportedly already laboring again to expand the existing road, a testament to Beijing’s claim to the disputed Doklam Plateau.
Indian Army troops have indicated that the renewed construction efforts are “meant to be a strong signal of Beijing’s intent to prove its territorial claims.”
Although economically and militarily China is more powerful than India, Beijing considers New Delhi a rival.
“China exploits the longstanding rivalry between India and Pakistan to ensure its own ambitions in South Asia are achieved,” reported the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission to Congress.
“This strategy aims to keep India so preoccupied with its western neighbor that it will not have the ability to mount a serious challenge to China’s power and influence in Asia,” it also said.
The 1962 Sino-Indian border war and the 1965 Indi-Pakistani war reportedly drew Beijing and Islamabad closer together.