India-China Tensions Could Again Escalate As Delhi Plans To Build Another Road In Disputed Border Region

Tensions between India and China could flare up once again as New Delhi has proposed to build a road in the disputed Yeri territory in Bhutan. The contentious region was claimed recently by China and any Indian action in the disputed territory, currently administered by Bhutan, is likely to stir up tensions in the border region. 

The proposal was forwarded by India and would enable New Delhi to quickly access Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China. According to a report by Economic Times, the strategically significant road will reduce the distance between Guwahati and Tawang by 150 kilometres.

The new road would allow India to deploy troops faster to respond to any military moves by China, not only across Tawang but also towards the eastern region of Bhutan. China’s new claim of territory in far-eastern Bhutan is linked to its claim on 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh.

Tawang is claimed by Beijing as part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and is part of its policy to have absolute control over Tibet.

The road will be constructed by the Border Roads Organization (BRO). It will connect Lumla near Tawang with Trashigang in Bhutan and since New Delhi and Thimphu have shared security interests, its construction will benefit both countries.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, India’s presence in Bhutan is likely to irk China and could even escalate tensions between the two countries.  The recent de-escalation efforts in Ladakh could be undone due to India’s road project in Bhutan.

So far China has not commented on the road project in eastern-Bhutan.

China-Bhutan Border Dispute

Apart from India, Bhutan has also been at the receiving end of Chinese claims to its territory. As reported by Eurasian Times earlier, Beijing made claims over Bhutanese territory and tried to block funding by an international agency for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district.

In response, Bhutan issued a demarche, stating that the territorial dispute between Bhutan and China was limited only to 269 sq km in the western sector and 495 sq km in the north-central sector of the boundary between them.

Thimphu also said no part of its territory in the eastern sector was ever on the agenda of its boundary negotiation.

The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashigang district in far-eastern Bhutan and the areas around it have traditionally been believed to be home to the mythical ‘Yeti’ or ‘Migoi’ in Bhutanese. The area is also home to Brokpas — a semi-nomadic population which migrated from Tibet in the 14th century.

As Beijing never registered any claim on Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary or any other area in eastern Bhutan during the 24 rounds of boundary negotiations between 1984 and 2016, analysts feel that China is once again trying to take advantage since the international community is busy dealing with the pandemic.

Written by – Armaan Srivastava