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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

China and India Locked in 'Eyeball-to-Eyeball' Border Standoff

China and India, two nuclear-armed powers with a combined population of 2.7 billion, have been in an “eyeball-to-eyeball” military stand-off over territory in Bhutan, a kingdom in a remote area of the Himalayas, since mid-June. The flare-up, one of the most serious since China won a border war in 1962, comes as the two rising powers jostle for regional influence. The current dispute is near a three-way junction between Bhutan, China’s Tibet and India’s Sikkim.

1. Why is the area important?

All land-based military and commercial traffic between India’s northeastern provinces and the rest of the country travels through the narrow strip of land known as the Siliguri Corridor -- also sometimes referred to as the Chicken’s neck. The Doklam Plateau -- where troops are currently facing off -- overlooks the corridor, which India defense strategists fear could be vulnerable to Chinese attack in case of a conflict.

2. How far back does this dispute go?

An 1890 convention between Britain and China is supposed to determine the location of the border near the Siliguri Corridor. However it contains a contradiction that allows each country to claim support for its position, said Taylor Fravel, who studies border disputes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. India contends the border is at Batang La, while China argues it is at Mount Gimpochi, three miles to the south. If China is correct, it would gain access to the Doklam Plateau.

3. What’s the status of ties between the three countries?

Bhutan has had close relations with India since 1949 when it agreed to a Friendship Treaty under which India would “guide” Bhutan’s foreign policy. This was updated in 2007 to remove the guidance provision. Both agreed that neither government would allow its territory to be used for activities harmful to the national security of the other. Bhutan doesn’t have diplomatic ties with China, though the two sides routinely holds talks aimed at resolving seven disputed border areas. READ MORE