What will continue the Doklam stalemate again

Doklam - Doklam

Doklam (in standard Bhutan), Zhoglam (in standard Tibetan) or Donglang (Pinyin, Chinese: 洞 朗) is a plateau and valley area that lies between China's Chumbi Valley in the north and Bhutan's Ha Valley in the east, and the Nathang Valley of the Indian state of Sikkim in the west. It has been shown on the Bhutanese maps as part of Bhutan since 1961, but is also claimed by China. So far, the dispute has not been resolved despite several rounds of border negotiations between Bhutan and China. The area is of strategic importance for all three countries.

A military standoff erupted between China and India in June 2017 when China attempted to build a road on the Doklam Plateau near the Doka-La- To extend the pass south, and Indian troops marched in to prevent the Chinese unsuccessfully. India claimed to have acted on behalf of Bhutan, with which it has a "special relationship". Bhutan has officially objected to China's road construction in the disputed area.


The Imperial Gazetteer of India which depicts the British view of the territory from the 19th century, states that the Dongkya chain that separates Sikkim from the Chumbi Valley splits into two large spurs at the summit of Gipmochi, one to the southwest and the other runs to the southeast. The valley of the river Dichul or Jaldhaka runs between these two foothills.

The Dongkya Mountains, which usually run in a north-south direction, bend gently east-west at the southern end of the Chumbi Valley, pass through the Batang La and Sinchela passes and descend into the plains. A second ridge to the south, the Zompelri- or Jampheri The ridge is called, runs parallel to the first ridge, which is separated in the middle by the Doklam or Doka-La valley. At the top of the valley, the two ridges connect and form a plateau. The highest points of the plateau are on its west shoulder between Batang La and Mount Gipmochi, and the plateau slopes down to the southeast. A stream flows down the Doklam valley and collects the runoff water from the plateau. It flows into the Amo Chu River about 15 km southeast.

The 89 km 2 large Area between the western shoulder of the plateau and the junction of the Doklam River with the Amo Chu River Doklam ("Rocky path") called.

The Indian state of Sikkim is located to the west of the Dongkya Mountains, the western shoulder of the Doklam plateau and the "southwestern spur" which extends from the summit of the Gipmochi. The Zompelri ridge separates Bhutan's Haa district (in the north) and the Samtse district (in the south). Bhutan's claimed border runs along the north ridge of the Doklam Plateau to Sinchela and then moves down the valley to the Amo Chu River. China's border claim covers the entire Doklam area in the Chumbi Valley, which ends in the south at the Zompelri ridge and in the east at the junction of the Doklam River.

Strategic importance

The scientist Susan Walcott counts the Chinese Chumbi Valley north of Doklam and the Indian Siliguri Corridor south of Doklam as "strategic bottlenecks in the mountains that are of crucial importance for the global power competition". John Garver has described the Chumbi Valley as "the most strategically important property in the entire Himalayan region". The Chumbi Valley lies between Sikkim and Bhutan south of the high Himalayas and points like a "dagger" to the Indian Siliguri corridor. The latter is a narrow, 24-kilometer-wide corridor between Nepal and Bangladesh in the Indian state of West Bengal, which connects the central parts of India with the northeastern states including the embattled state of Arunachal Pradesh. Often referred to as the "chicken neck", the Siliguri Corridor poses a strategic vulnerability for India. It is also of central strategic importance for Bhutan as it contains the main supply routes into the country.

Historically, both the Siliguri and Chumbi Valley were part of a trade route between India and Tibet. In the 19th century the British-Indian government tried to open the way to British trade, which led to their suzerainty over Sikkim with its strategic passes Nathu La and Jelep La in the Chumbi Valley. Following the Anglo-Chinese Treaty of 1890 and the Younghusband Expedition, the British established trading posts in Yatung and Lhasa, as well as military divisions to protect them. These trade relations lasted until 1959 when the Chinese government ended them. The Doklam area played only a minor role in these agreements, however, as the main trade routes led either over the Sikkim passes or through the interior of Bhutan to the Chumbi Valley in the north near Phari. There is some fragmentary evidence of trade through the Amo Chu Valley, but the valley is said to have been narrow with rock faces with a torrential river flow that is not conducive to a trade route.

Indian intelligence officials say China carried out steady military build-up in the Chumbi Valley, built many garrisons and turned the valley into a strong military base. In 1967 border disputes occurred at Nathu La and Cho La happened when the Chinese disputed the Indian demarcation of the border in the Dongkya area. In the ensuing artillery fire, according to scholar Taylor Fravel, many Chinese fortifications were destroyed when the Indians controlled the highlands. In fact, the Chinese military is believed to be in a weak position in the Chumbi Valley as the Indian and Bhutanese forces control the heights around the valley.

The desire for heights should bring China to the Doklam plateau. Indian security experts mention three strategic advantages of controlling the Doklam Plateau for China. First, there is an impressive view of the Chumbi Valley. Second, it outstrips Indian defenses in Sikkim, which are currently facing northeast towards Dongkya. Third, it overlooks the strategic Siliguri Corridor to the south. A claim to the summit of the Gipmochi and the Zompelri ridge would bring the Chinese to the extreme edge of the Himalayas, from where the slopes plunge into the southern foothills of Bhutan and India. From here the Chinese could monitor the movements of Indian troops in the plains or, in the event of war, launch an attack on the vital Siliguri Corridor. For New Delhi this means a "strategic redline". The scientist Caroline Brassard explains: "Your strategic importance for the Indian military is obvious."


A map from 1876 with Sikkim, Chumbi Valley and Bhutan ("Gipmochi pk" is marked near Batang-la).
An 1888 map of the Empire of China by Edward Stanford narrowed to the borders of Bhutan

The historical status of the Doklam Plateau is uncertain.

According to the Sikkimese tradition, when the Kingdom of Sikkim was founded in 1642, it comprised all areas around the Doklam Plateau: the Chumbi Valley in the north, the Haa Valley in the east and the Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas in the southwest. During the 18th century, Sikkim was subject to repeated raids from Bhutan, and these areas often changed hands. After a Bhutanese attack in 1780, a settlement was reached that led to the relocation of the Haa Valley and Kalimpong area to Bhutan. The Doklam plateau between these regions may have been part of these areas. The Chumbi Valley is said to have been under the control of Sikkim at that time.

Historians qualify this narrative, Saul Mullard explains that the early kingdom of Sikkim was very much limited to the western part of modern Sikkim. The eastern part was under the control of independent chiefs who faced border conflicts with the Bhutanese and lost the Kalimpong area. The possession of the Chumbi Valley by the Sikkimese is uncertain, but the Tibetans are known to have repelled Bhutanese incursions there.

After the unification of Nepal under the Gorkhas in 1756, Nepal and Bhutan coordinated their attacks on Sikkim. Bhutan was excluded from competition by an Anglo-Bhutanese treaty in 1774. Tibet forced an agreement between Sikkim and Nepal that is said to have angered Nepal. Subsequently, in 1788, Nepal occupied all Sikkim areas west of the Teesta River and four provinces of Tibet. Tibet eventually sought help from China, which led to the Sino-Nepalese War of 1792. This turned out to be China's decisive entry into Himalayan politics. The victorious Chinese general ordered a land survey that declared the Chumbi Valley to be part of Tibet. The Sikkimese were annoyed by the losses they were forced to suffer after the war.

In the decades that followed, Sikkim established ties with the British East India Company and regained part of his lost territory after an Anglo-Nepalese war. Relations with the British remained rocky, however, and the Sikkimese retained their loyalty to Tibet. The British tried to enforce their sovereignty through the Treaty of Tumlong in 1861. In 1890 they attempted to expel the Tibetans from Sikkim by signing a treaty with the Chinese who were believed to have suzerainty over Tibet. The Anglo-Chinese treaty recognized Sikkim as a British protectorate and defined the border between Sikkim and Tibet as the northern watershed of the Teesta River (in the Dongkya Mountains), beginning at "Mount Gipmochi". In 1904 the British signed another treaty with Tibet confirming the terms of the Anglo-Chinese treaty. According to the scholar John Prescott, the border between Sikkim and Tibet established in the treaty is still preserved today.

Bhutan became a protected state (albeit not a "protectorate") of British India in 1910, an agreement that was continued by independent India in 1949. Bhutan, however, maintained its independence in all internal affairs and its borders were not demarcated until 1961. It is said that the Chinese cite maps from before 1912 to make their claim to Doklam.

Sino-Bhutanese border dispute in Doklam

Border between China and Bhutan in a survey map of the US Army Map Service, 1955. From the intersection in Batang La the border runs north-northeast to the village of Asam along a ridge line.
The Chinese road construction between Sinchela and Doka La is said to have been carried out between 2004 and 2005.

Representations of historical Chinese maps of the People's Republic of China show Sikkim and Bhutan from the 2nd century BC. For a period of 1800 years as part of Tibet or China. Others note that these areas were not under Chinese control except for a brief period in the 19th century.As of 1958, Chinese maps showed large swaths of Bhutanese territory as part of China. In 1960, China issued a statement claiming that Bhutan, Sikkim and Ladakh were part of a united family in Tibet and had always been subject to "the great motherland of China". Alarmed, Bhutan closed its border with China and closed all trade and diplomatic contacts. Formal defense arrangements have also been made with India.


From August 1965 onwards, China and India exchanged allegations of intruders in Doklam. China alleged that Indian troops marched from Doka La to Doklam (which they called "Dognan") to conduct reconnaissance and intimidate Chinese shepherds. At first, the Indians ignored the complaint. After several rounds of exchanges, however, they initiated a protest by the Bhutanese government on September 30, 1966, according to which Tibetan pastures accompanied by Chinese patrols would enter the pastures near the Doklam plateau. The letter alleged that the Doklam area is "south of the traditional border between Bhutan and the Tibet region" in the southern Chumbi area. On October 3, the Bhutanese government issued a press release saying, "This area has traditionally been part of Bhutan and the government of the People's Republic of China has not made any claim that denies the traditional boundary that runs along recognizable natural features . "

In response to the Indian protest, the Chinese government replied that Bhutan was a sovereign country and that China did not recognize any role for the Indian government in this matter. It was also alleged that the Doklam area "has always been under Chinese jurisdiction", that the Chinese herdsmen "have grazed cattle there for generations," and that the Bhutanese herdsmen had to pay pastureland to the Chinese side to graze cattle there.

China later officially extended its claims to 800 km 2 Territory in Northern Bhutan and in areas north of Punakha, but apparently not in Doklam. Bhutan called on the Indian government to raise the matter with China. However, China rejected India's initiatives that the problem only affected China and Bhutan. Indian commentators say Chinese troops withdrew after a month and that the Doklam clashes brought Bhutan even closer to India, leading to the appointment of 3,400 Indian Defense Forces in Bhutan to train the Bhutanese army.

Border negotiations

The border negotiations between Bhutan and China began in 1972 with the participation of India. However, China sought the exclusion of India due to its impact on Bhutan. Bhutan started its own border negotiations with China in 1984. Before submitting its line of claims, it conducted its own surveys and produced maps that were approved by the National Assembly in 1989. Strategic expert Manoj Joshi states that the Bhutanese voluntarily surrendered territory in the process. Other scientists put in the official Bhutanese maps a reduction of the area by 8,606 km 2 firmly . Mount Kula Kangri, touted as the highest mountain in Bhutan, has apparently been ceded to China. Bhutan said it had risen to 1,128 km during the border talks by 1999 2 disputed border areas on 269 km 2 have reduced. In 1996, the Chinese negotiators offered Bhutan a "package deal", offering to abandon claims on 495 km 2 in the central region in exchange for 269 km 2 in the "northwest", ie next to the Chumbi Valley, including Doklam, Sinchulumpa, Dramana and Shakhatoe. These areas would provide strategic depth and access to India's strategic Siliguri Corridor for the Chinese defense. Bhutan turned down the offer, allegedly under pressure from India.

After rejecting China's package deal in 2000, the Bhutanese government presented its original 1989 line of claims. The talks then failed to make any progress. The government reported that China began building roads in the border areas in 2004, sparking repeated protests by the Bhutanese government over the 1998 peace and quiet agreement. According to a Bhutanese reporter, the Doklam Plateau was the most contested area. Chinese built a road up Sinchela Pass (in undisputed area) and then across the plateau (in disputed area) that led to Doka-La Pass until they came within 68 meters of the Indian border post on the Sikkim border. Here they built a turnaround that allowed vehicles to turn back. This road has existed since at least 2005. In 2007 there were reports that the Chinese had destroyed unmanned Indian outposts on the Doklam Plateau.

Actual position

China claims the Doklam area as Chinese territory based on the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890 negotiated between the British Empire in India and the Chinese Royal Mission. The treaty states that representatives from Sikkim and Tibet were part of these negotiations, but records show that they were not present during the negotiations in Calcutta. The territorial border between Sikkim and Tibet was established in Article I of the treaty as follows:

The border between Sikkim and Tibet is said to be the ridge of the mountain range that separates the water flowing in the Sikkim Teesta and its tributaries from the water flowing in the Tibetan Mochu and to the north in other rivers of Tibet. The line begins at the summit of Gipmochi on the border with Bhutan and follows the aforementioned water separation to the point where it meets the Nipal area. "

-  Anglo-Chinese Treaty of 1890

Mochu is the Tibetan name for the Amo Chu River. Gipmochi is mentioned in the article as being on the border with Bhutan, but no further details about Bhutan have been given. Bhutan was not a signatory to the Anglo-Chinese treaty.

Bhutan's position was described in 2002:

His Majesty the King explained to the members of the National Assembly that there are basically four disputed areas between Bhutan and China. Starting from Doklam in the west, the border runs along the ridges from Gamochen to Batangla, Sinchela and down to Amo Chhu. The disputed area in Doklam covered 89 square kilometers ....

In 2004, Bhutans reported Secretary for International Borders the National Assembly have the same rights.

The diplomat has commented that the continuous ridge or watershed mentioned in the first sentence of the Treaty of 1890 appears to begin very close to Batang La on the north ridge of the Doklam Plateau and that this indicates a contradiction between the first and second sentences of the above Article of the contract. This location in Batang La is represented and claimed by Bhutan and India as a trijunction point.

According to scholar Srinath Raghavan, the principle of the watershed in the first sentence implies that the ridge of Batang La-Merug La-Sinchela should be the border between China and Bhutan, as both Merug La at 4,653 m (15,266 feet) and Sinchela at 14,531 feet (15,566 feet) are (4,429 m) higher than Gipmochi at 4,427 m.

Border agreement between Bhutan and China in 1988 and 1998

Bhutan and China have had 24 rounds of border talks since they began in 1984. The Royal Government of Bhutan claims that the current road construction on the Doklam Plateau is a unilateral modification of a controversial border through China that violates the 1988 and 1998 accords of the two nations. The agreements also prohibit the use of force and encourage both parties to strictly adhere to peaceful means.

"Border talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China, and we wrote agreements from 1988 and 1998, according to which both sides agree to maintain peace and quiet in their border areas until the border issue is finally settled and the status quo at the border. The agreements also provide for that neither side will take unilateral action or use force to change the status quo of the border. "

Despite the agreement, the PLA came to Bhutan in 1988 and took control of the Chumbi Valley near the Doklam Plateau. There were reports of PLA troops threatening the Bhutanese guards, declaring them Chinese soil, and occupying and occupying Bhutanese posts for long periods of time. After 2000, numerous encroachments, grazing and road and infrastructure works by the Chinese were again reported, as reported in the Bhutanese National Assembly.

2017 Doklam distance

In June 2017, Doka La became the site of a stalemate between the armed forces of India and China after China tried to extend a road from Yadong further south on the Doklam Plateau. India is not entitled to Doklam, but it does support Bhutan's claim to the territory. According to the Bhutanese government, China was trying to extend a road that previously ended in Doka La, two kilometers south, towards the Bhutanese army camp in Zompelri. Considered a border by China but completely within Bhutan from Bhutan and India, this ridge extends to the east and overlooks India's highly strategic Siliguri Corridor.

On June 18, Indian troops entered the area in a dispute between China and Bhutan to prevent road construction.

India's entry into the dispute is explained by the existing relationship between India and Bhutan. In a 1949 treaty, Bhutan agreed to allow India to conduct its foreign policy and defense affairs, making it a protected state in India. In 2007, this treaty was replaced by a new friendship treaty, which required Bhutan to adopt India's foreign policy guidelines, but grant it broader sovereignty in other matters such as arms imports.

India accuses China of violating this "peace agreement" by trying to build roads in Doklam.

India has criticized China for "crossing the border" and attempting to build a road (allegedly "illegally"), while China has criticized India for entering its "territory".

On June 29, 2017, Bhutan protested against the Chinese construction of a road in the disputed area. The Bhutanese border has been put on alert and border security tightened as tensions have risen. On the same day, China released a map showing Doklam as part of China, claiming through the map that all areas up to Gipmochi were part of China under the Sino-British Treaty of 1890.

On July 3, 2017, China informed India that former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had accepted the British-Chinese treaty of 1890. Contrary to Chinese claims, Nehru's letter to Zhou dated September 26, 1959, quoted by China, was a point-by-point refutation of the claims she made on September 8, 1959. In his counterargumentation, Nehru made it clear that the treaty of 1890 only defined the northern part of the border between Sikkim and Tibet and not the three-crossing area.

China claimed on July 5, 2017 that there was a "basic consensus" between China and Bhutan that Doklam was part of China, and there was no dispute between the two countries. The Bhutanese government denied in August 2017 that it had given up its claim to Doklam.

In a 15-page statement released on August 1, 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing accused India of using Bhutan as a "pretext" to disrupt and obstruct border talks between China and Bhutan. The report referred to India's "intrusion" into Doklam as a violation of China's territorial sovereignty as well as a challenge to Bhutan's sovereignty and independence.

Chinese diplomat Wang Wengli claimed that Bhutan had not claimed the territory, but that it was unfounded.

Chinese position

The Chinese government claims that according to historical evidence, Donglang (Doklam) has always been a traditional grazing area for the border residents of Yadong, a county in its Tibetan Autonomous Region, and that China has administered well in the area. It is also said that before the 1960s, if the border residents of Bhutan wanted to herd in Doklam, they needed the approval of the Chinese side and had to pay the grass tax to China.

Bhutanese reactions

After the Bhutanese government and the media issued a press release on June 29, 2017, they were diligently silent. The Bhutanese provided realized that the land on which China built a road was "Bhutanese territory" claimed by China and that it is part of the ongoing border negotiations. She also defended the policy of silence pursued by the Bhutanese government, saying, "Bhutan does not want India and China to go to war and it is avoiding anything that can aggravate an already heated situation." Indeed ENODO Global Having done a study of social media interactions in Bhutan, recommended that the government “actively engage” with citizens and avoid segregation between leaders and populations. ENODO was very concerned among the population about the risk of war between India and China and the possibility of annexation by China, similar to that of Tibet in 1951. It noted a strengthening of Bhutanese determination, identity and nationalism and did not want any "weaknesses" " be ".

The New York Times said she encountered more people who were concerned about India's actions than China's. She expressed sovereignty and concern that an escalation of the border conflict would affect trade and diplomatic relations with China. ENODO has not confirmed these observations. Rather, it said that hundreds of Twitter hashtags were created to garner support for India and that it was a significant setback to that Xinhua TV program titled "7 Sins" that scourged India. The scholar Rudra Chaudhuri, who had toured the country, noted that doklam is not as important an issue for Bhutanese as it was ten years ago. Rather, the Bhutanese see a border settlement with China as the top priority of the country. While he noted that terms like "pro-Chinese" and "anti-Indian" were used a lot, he said what they meant was not well understood.


On August 28, 2017, it was announced that India and China had agreed to a swift retreat on the Doklam Plateau to end the nearly three-month military duel. The Chinese Foreign Ministry avoided the question of whether China would continue building roads.


Chinese armed forces reportedly returned to the Doklam Plateau in September 2018 and had almost completed their road construction along with other infrastructure by January 2019. On November 19, 2020, a Chinese CGTN news producer tweeted that China had established a village called Pangda about 9 km from Doklam and about 2 km in the Bhutan area.

See also




Scientific sources
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  • Chandran, D. Suba; Singh, Bhavna (2015), India, China and subregional connectivity in South Asia , SAGE Publications, ISBN
  • Fravel, M. Taylor (2008), Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes , Princeton University Press, ISBN
  • Garver, John W. (2011), Lengthy Competition: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the 20th Century , University of Washington Press, ISBN
  • Harris, George L. (1977) [first published by American University, 1964], Area Handbook for Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim (second edition), US Government Printer
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  • Smith, Paul J. (2015), “Bhutan-China Border Disputes and Their Geopolitical Implications,” in Bruce Elleman; Stephen Kotkin; Clive Schofield (Ed.), Beijing's Power and China's Borders: Twenty Neighbors in Asia , ME Sharpe, pp. 23-36, ISBN
  • Van Praagh, David (2003), Greater Game: India's Race with Fate and China , McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, pp. 349-, ISBN
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Primary sources
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (August 2, 2017), Facts and position of China regarding the crossing of the border between China and India by the Indian border troops in the Sikkim sector into the Chinese territory (02.08.2017) (PDF), Government of China, accessed August 15, 2017
  • India. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1966), Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged Between the Governments of India and China, January 1965 - February 1966, White Paper No. XII (PDF)
  • India. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1967), Notes, Memoranda, and Letters Exchanged Between the Governments of India and China, February 1966 - February 1967, White Paper No. XIII (PDF)
  • India. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1967), Notes, Memoranda, and Letters Exchanged Between the Governments of India and China, February 1967 - April 1968, White Paper No. XIV (PDF)

External links