India-China standoff in the Himalayas
July 3, 2017 -- India and China have each deployed around 3,000 troops to positions on the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction – the point where the three Himalayan regions of Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan meet.
The standoff is around the border at Dhoka La, the location of the tri-junction accepted by Bhutan. The Chinese claim the border junction is at Gamochen, some 15km to the south.
On June 16, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), accompanied by earth movers and other construction equipment, began building a highway across the disputed Doklam plateau towards Gamochen in Bhutan’s territory. Reportedly, the road can take the weight of military vehicles weighing up to 40 tonnes -- light main battle tanks (MBTs) and towed artillery -- reminiscent of the 1960s Soviet Union-built Salang highway in Afghanistan.
In June, the PLA also declared that it had run a trial of a new 35-tonne light MBT in the Tibet autonomous region. The so-called Xinqingtan ZTQ tank -- designed for operations in mountainous areas -- has rung alarm bells in the Indian Ministry of Defence.
If China is allowed to build a highway to Gamochen, the PLA could threaten the strategic, narrow, Siliguri Corridor about 50-km south in West Bengal -- the so-called “Chicken's Neck” that connects India’s north-eastern states from the rest of the mainland.