Sunday, August 20, 2017

Doklam Plateau And The Shifting Tri-junction Points

As much as I try to desist from writing on the issue of Doklam that has prompted a hoard of ill-informed and poorly educated people around the world to hurl derogatory terms such as “puppet”, “vassal”, “protectorate” etc. at Bhutan and the Bhutanese people, I am unable to contain myself, simply because what is being put out is so much falsehood and misinformation and treachery and dishonesty.

The stand-off between India and China, from what is clearly obvious, is not based on their necessity for that piece of land, or on their legal or historical right of ownership over that land, but because, by their own admission, that land will give one of them strategic dominance over the other. If contemplation of war is at the core of their act of belligerence, all that one can say of these two countries is that they suffer from paucity of morality and human decency. It is Bhutan’s misfortune that we are centered between these two debauched nations.

It is rather odd that the world is being mislead into believing that these two nations need, of all things, a desolately located Himalayan plateau, called Doklam Plateau, to give them military dominance over the other. How many of us will buy that logic? If wars are to be fought and won, it will not be won from atop a frigid plateau located deep inside the Himalayan ranges. Each of these two nations have superior military power, with nuclear capability. Thus, if war is their intention, each of them can simply activate a switch siting in Beijing and New Delhi and annihilate each other from the face of this earth. Thus their argument that Doklam Plateau is critical to their national security is not tenable.

Even if that were true, it is still not good enough or valid enough reason for any country to trample on the sovereignty of a small and peaceful country such as Bhutan, who is, after all, the only country that has the moral authority and historical legitimacy, to give credence to the claims and counter claims being made by these two countries who are shamelessly engaged in irrelevant verbosity.

The world would have noticed that the one country that, by right, should be at the center of this brouhaha is conspicuously silent over the whole matter - other than a half-hearted Demarche issued in June of this year.

Doklam Plateau is at the Tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet. Of these three countries, Bhutan is the only one that is still standing. China and India may have selectively annexed Sikkim and Tibet, but their overlording these nation states do not empower them to speak with knowledge and authority. Their relevance begins in 1950 in the case of China, and 1975 in the case of India. As opposed to that, the knowledge base of the people of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet on the matter goes back many centuries.

While India was buckling under the successive colonial yoke of the British Raj, the French and the Portuguese, the Bhutanese and the Tibetans were happily grazing their yaks in the Doklam Plateau areas – fully cognizant and respectful of their respective boundaries. There was no confusion.

Similarly, while the Manchus and the Mongols and the Japanese were one after the other subjugating the Chinese, the Bhutanese and the Tibetan’s were quite merrily trading and exchanging merchandise across their borders and living in harmony.

Something that the world must consider very seriously, even if the Chinese and the Indians won’t, is this: there was never any disagreement between Bhutan and Tibet concerning their territorial boundaries. The Bhutanese and the Tibetans made their annual migrations to the pasture lands in the Doklam areas, to graze their yaks in peace and harmony. They both knew and respected the exact locations of their respective boundaries.

So then why is there a dispute now? How can two Johnnies-come-lately start disagreeing on the physical boundaries that have been in place for centuries – perhaps even pre-dating their respective civilizations? Has there been some tectonic shift in the Eastern Himalayas that have caused some drastic geographical alterations in the Doklam areas, causing traditional boundaries to go for a spin?

Four years to the month (August 2013), I had written that the issue of Doklam is dangerous and that we should resolve it without delay. Four years since, we are still engaged in the same useless cock and bull story that cannot contribute to solving the problem that needs solving. We all know that without the backing of truth behind what we do, whatever we do will be doomed to failure. Let us not postpone that which is inevitable – the dispute needs to be resolved – it cannot be postponed forever. Doing so thus far has already complicated the issues as can be seen from the following:

To begin with, the disputed area between Bhutan and China was supposed to be at the Doklam Plateau areas, located on the West-South of Haa, as depicted in the above map.

The most recent claims emerging as a result of the stand-off between China and India indicate that the Tri-junction is now centered at a place called Gymochen, further down south of Batang-La which was earlier taken as the Tri-junction point.

Consequent upon relocation of the Tri-junction point to Gymochen further down south, China now claims addition land, as indicated above.

Bhutan should settle the issue of the Northern borders with China, without further delay. It would be stupid to assume that we can stall the matter indefinitely - a day will dawn on us when we have to make the settlement - we all know that. Thus, it is better that we do it sooner than later. If 24 rounds of border talks with China hasn't brought us any closer to arriving at a settlement, I do not know what will help.

 Certainly not audacity!


  1. Whether India is considered by you as a 'debauched nation' and having a characteristic of 'paucity of morality and human decency' or not, I agree that Bhutan and Tibetan has, and in the past, had informal borders. I also agree that the yak herders and cattle braziers had mutual understanding to coomonly graze without any dispute. You missed one thing: the lamas from both sides used to meet each other as part of seasonal migration. I think Dr Karma Ura mentions these points nicely. Finally, I agree that Bhutan is the solution. As in the past, the royal family and the ruling elite should settle the issues of borders with China (Tibet) through informal network of the lamas and the old institution of 'agents'. By the way, neither Sikkim is a country nor Tibet is a country as you mentioned: "Of these three countries, Bhutan is .........". In the past, Bhutan had surrendered the boundary land to China but India did not jump. This time, probably, the clause of safeguarding each other and mutual cooperation was invoked. What else is required for two giants to come to confrontation at a place in the third country where neither side can mobilise armies nor bear the cost of the logistics and manpower transportation. The actual scene of contest would be neither at this tri-junction nor along the border at Arunachal Pradesh but in Leh and Ladakh- the most developed border junctions. By the way, I liked your blog.

    1. Dear Prof.,
      I think you have no understanding of the issues. Why would India want to jump when Bhutan handed back Chinese land to China? For sure India would have loved to jump if they could but there is no road there in the north of bhutan where Bhutan returned the land. Not like Doklam where there was road and they moved in with force.

  2. The Indian and Chinese Media must read this.
    Thank you, Aue Yeshey for letting us know the core of the issue and the background.
    World must know "Doklam Plateau is at the Tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet."

  3. I'm an Indian and a huge admirer of the simplicity of your people. I just wish, other powers like my country and China could be the same way. I understand your pain and anguish when i put myself in your place. Just hope and pray that this matter be resolved peacefully and ASAP, which should be led by Bhutan and supported by India and China

  4. I think you know Tibet has been part of China for a long time, the current government inherited it at 1950. Indian took advantage of Chinese government fighting off invaders on Korea peninsula, steal south Tibet from China. You may wish it different by the fact does not change. So is the fact that Tibetans are having good life in China.

    1. China did not inherit Tibet in 1950. China annexed Tibet in 1959.

    2. Wishful thinking of yours is not the historical fact.

      Indian along with its matters in the west instigated Tibet rulers to separate from Chinese government rule, and the Tibetans ruling class are now stateless in India with no slaves, while their slaves live a good life in Tibet. Karma.

      Chinese should return in kind for Indian evil deeds and start to take apart India. I am sure every one of your neighbors will give a helping hand, and celebrating the day when india is rendered toothless.

    3. Anonymous
      'China did not inherit Tibet in 1950. China annexed Tibet in 1959.'

      China [Yuan dynasty] conquered Tibet in the 12 century.

      India 'inherited' the 'NorthEast' from the Brits,
      When Nagaland, Manipur, Assam etc etc demanded independence,
      India waged a genocidal war to destroy the tiny nations.

  5. When it comes to the negotiating table on boundary disputes between India and China or whether it is between China and Bhutan. it is ironical that the Chinese government claim is based everything on pre-1959 Tibetan government document written in Tibetan ( agreements, tax codes, letters ) and there is not a single Chinese official document written in mandarin to claim these current territories. Still China has the ability to brazenly claim a naked lie.

  6. I totally understand your concern. It is hard to believe that after 8 hundred years, some minorities in China even after over 1000s years, still retain their own cultures and language.

    According to Indian play book of converting minorities into Hindus or putting them into class of untouchable as they do to Buddhists, or Muslims, or Christians in India, they should have been disappeared long ago...

  7. China concluded its border demarcation with 12 of its 14 neighbors long time ago,
    in many cases China conceded huge territories in order to get a speedy settlement.

    So the deadlock bet Bhutan/China border negotiations seem unlikely to be China's fault.

    Its well known by now that PM Thinley had reached an agreement with Beijing to conclude the demarcation and establish deplomatic relation.
    India orchestrated an economic sanction to force out Thinley.

    Before that, another PM who wanted good relaton with China was assasinated by RAW, the Indian intel.

    India is the cancer of South Asia, just ask Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh,
    Pakistan, Bhutan and .....Sikkim !