New Delhi: After nearly two-month-long border tensions with India in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, China is now firm on its claim on the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in Trashigang district of eastern Bhutan, forcing the Bhutan foreign ministry to issue a demarche to China asserting that the sanctuary is an “integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan”. Also Read - Bubonic Plague Kills Another Man in Mongolia, 70 Others Who Came in Contact to be Tested
While the rest of the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic situation, Beijing has been aggressively working on its expansionist agenda by attempting to alter the status quo in East China Sea, South China Sea and with India in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Also Read - Bhutan Announces Its First Nationwide Lockdown With 113 Cases as Capital Thimphu Becomes Hotspot
The dispute between Bhutan and China began in the first week of June at the 58th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council meeting, when China refused to grant permission to Bhutan to develop the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS), calling the area under Trashigang district “disputed”. Also Read - Indian-Americans Protest in Washington DC Against China's Encroachment, Human Rights Violation
Bhutan and China have a border dispute since 1984. According to widely available articles, the dispute was so far restricted totwo points in north and west. However, this is the first time China has raised a territorial claim on the Skteng region.
The GEF reportedly dismissed China’s claim and authorised funding for the project to Bhutan. However, the Chinese council member said that he would need time to consult with his higher-ups to come to a view on the matter.
Subsequently, reports suggested that China has been attempting to “oppose” the funding.
Bhutan and China have, since, held at least 24 rounds of border talks and the Bhutan government even issued a formal letter to the GEF council asking it to purge all references of China’s baseless claims on its “integral and sovereign territory” from Council’s documents.
Both parties have been conveying their position on the diplomatic matter through their missions in New Delhi. However, according to a statement issued to the Hindustan Times, the Chinese foreign ministry has India, a “third party”, to not “point fingers” in China and Bhutan’s bilateral issue.
How does India play an important role in the China-Bhutan border tension?
Apart from the fact that China has been laying similar claims at multiple borders in India, the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary area shares a three-way border with Bhutan, India and China.
Moreover, because the two countries do not have embassies in each other’s countries, they have been communicating through their embassies in New Delhi.