Indian media have again raised the claim that Chinese government has established a new village inside Bhutanese territory. According to reports, the village is close to Doklam, approximately 2km inside Bhutan from border with China.
NDTV claimed some images published by Chinese media house CTGN New producer Shen Shiwei were inside the Bhutanese border.
The images show newly built houses but does not categorically say they inside Bhutan. NDTV said the settlement was named Panda village. The settlement consists of a neat housing locality, clean roads and other amenities next to a stream. The presence of the Chinese village is the first time since 2017 that a Chinese residential area has been noticed near the Doklam region, which is strategically important for India.
The Doklam standoff had been the most serious face-off in decades between India and China before the confrontation in eastern Ladakh in June for 70 days with a clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unspecified number of Chinese casualties.
On June 30, 2017, at the height of the standoff between Indian and Chinese forces, New Delhi accused Beijing of violating a 2012 agreement by unilaterally altering the status quo of the tri-junction boundary in the region. New Delhi believes this tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan lies north of the 2017 faceoff site at Doka La – on the western edge of the Doklam plateau – while Beijing believes it lies well to the south at Mount Gipmochi as per an 1890 treaty.
However, The Hindu quoted Bhutanese envoy to India Vetsop Namgyal refuting the claims. Namgyal said, “There is no Chinese village inside Bhutan.”
There has been no official statement from the government and unlikely to get one as foreign relation is generally controlled by palace.
Nathan Ruser, a researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, responded to Shen’s tweets by highlighting that the location of the Chinese village indicated a clear breach of Bhutan’s sovereignty.
“Here’s a CGTN news producer openly admitting that China has occupied and now populated part of a sovereign country,” tweeted Mr Ruser. “This Pangda village has been constructed (as shown by the included map) 2.5 km beyond Bhutan’s international border. China now baselessly claims about 12 per cent of Bhutan,” he said.
Responding to Bhutan denial, Ruser tweeted: “Weird statement considering there’s satellite imagery and extensive photos from the ground of this village inside Bhutan, 9 kilometres from the Doklam face-off site. Seems like a blatant untruth to me.”
Ruser actively posts anti-China statements and tweets.
In a series of tweets, Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese newspaper, pointed out, “Bhutan and China recognise the 269 sqkm in the west and 495 sqkm in north-central Bhutan as [being] disputed and so while there are maximalist claim lines from both sides, there is no mutually accepted international border there yet.”
India has steadfastly insisted in recent years that it is responsible for security and territorial integrity of Bhutan. It appears Indians are more worried about Chinese presence in Bhutan than Bhutanese authorities.
It was a long undisclosed wish of the Bhutanese government to established relations with China and open trade route to reduce over reliance on India for everything. The move is very sensitive to Bhutan-India relation.
Bhutan is the last country in region to support India in its diplomatic, economic and military ambitions.