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Bhutan-India relationship facing Chinese challenge, says Congress

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New Delhi: Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said that the Bhutan-India relationship is facing a Chinese challenge, which also poses a threat to the Siliguri Corridor – the land bridge to the northeastern states.

“Bhutan and India’s so far unshakeable relationship is facing a challenge from an aggressive China. We urge the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) to not hide behind smokescreens and ensure that this very long-standing partnership with Bhutan remains strong and is further deepened,” he said in a statement.

He said the Modi government presented the 2017 Doklam standoff as a “major victory”, but since then the Chinese have engaged in an unprecedented military infrastructure buildup in the area, and also built villages and roads adjacent to the Doklam plateau many kilometres inside Bhutanese territory.

“It is well-known that the adjacent Chumbi Valley poses a potential threat to India’s strategic Siliguri Corridor, the so-called Chicken’s Neck that connects the seven northeastern states with the rest of the country. In this context the remark by Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering that ‘there is no intrusion’ into Bhutan by China and that Beijing has an ‘equal’ say in any discussion over its illegal intrusions raises several concerns.”

The Congress leader also questioned if there a dilution in the unwavering Indian and Bhutanese contention that the tri-junction of India, China, and Bhutan lies at Batang La, and not at Mount Gipmochi as the Chinese claim? This could cause a serious problem for the security of the Siliguri Corridor, he warned.

The recent Chinese construction reportedly includes an all-weather road in the Amu Chu river basin inside Bhutan moving south towards the Jhamperi Ridge that overlooks the Siliguri Corridor. “Is China eyeing the coveted Jhamperi Ridge from a new angle? What is India doing to defend Bhutan and to prevent the Chinese from reaching this important geographical feature?

“When will the Modi government respond to China’s renewed verbal, geographical and military aggression?” Ramesh asked.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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