A temple in Bhutan stands in the mountains. Photo: CFP
India is continuing to pile pressure on Bhutan to take a position on the current military standoff in the Doklam region, which only reveals India's hegemonism in South Asia, Chinese experts told the Global Times Friday.
Indian media reports quoted a Chinese diplomat as saying that Bhutan has conveyed to China via diplomatic channels that the area of the standoff is not Bhutan's territory. Bhutanese officials had "rejected" the report, referring media to a previous statement, the Times of India reported Thursday.
However, the anonymous official sources in Bhutan cited by the Times of India did not directly say that Bhutan rejected the Chinese diplomat's claim. They said that "our position on the border issue is very clear. Please refer to our statement which has been published on the website of Bhutan's foreign ministry on June 29, 2017," the Times of India reported.
Bhutan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on its website on June 29, in answer to queries "regarding the Bhutan-China boundary in the Doklam area."
"Bhutan's statement shows that the problem in Doklam is between China and Bhutan, and it also takes India's stance into consideration since India has put great pressure on Bhutan," Zhou Fangyin, a professor with the Guangdong Research Institute for International Strategies, told the Global Times on Friday.
Although Bhutan's statement said that "the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries," it made the remarks because of pressure from India, experts said.
"Bhutan does not want to offend India considering the latter is its largest donor country and creditor. But Bhutan expects to develop ties with China," Qian Feng, a research fellow with the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Friday.
The Indian media has tried everything to get Bhutan to come down on its side, but only got those few sentences, which shows that Bhutan cherishes its relations with China and the accomplishments of the 24 rounds of talks to resolve boundary disputes, Qian said.
Zhang Jiadong, a professor from Fudan University, said Friday that Bhutan's appeal over the Doklam region started in 2000, which suggests that India had a hand in the initial process and it was not Bhutan's idea. It is also not the first time that India is being hegemonistic in South Asia, having previously interfered in Bhutan's diplomatic activities and in the revision of Nepal's constitution in 2015, he noted.
"Some small countries in South Asia have hoped to benefit from China's economy and admire China's friendly attitude toward its neighboring countries. As China is developing quickly, competition between China and India in South Asia will increase," Qian said.
The military standoff in Doklam has lasted for almost two months now. China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiation and the only solution is the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops.
"It's noticeable that we've never seen Bhutan's troops in Doklam, which tells China and the world that as a small country... Bhutan is being controlled by India and it can't oppose it openly," Zhang said.
Chinese experts said that they fear a greater possibility of military clashes in Doklam as tensions have escalated in recent days.
India on Thursday ordered the evacuation of 100 residents from Nathang village, 35 kilometers from Doklam, news site india.com reported.
"India has deployed more troops around the Doklam region recently for an annual military exercise. The exercise, which is usually held in late September and October, has been brought forward. India may want to bolster its soldiers as well as pressure China," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday that 53 people and a bulldozer from the Indian side remained in Chinese territory as of Monday. "India should withdraw its troops and equipment. Regardless of how many Indian troops have trespassed into and stayed in Chinese territory, they have gravely infringed on China's sovereignty," the ministry said.