Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Doklam Thaw - Nothing Changes for Bhutan

It appears that there is a thaw in the stand-off at Doklam between China and India. Both Chinese and Indian spokespersons have individually made the disengagement announcements to the world audience.

But nothing changes for Bhutan – the issue remains unresolved – to be stoked time and again in the future, at the will and fancy of China or India. This temporary respite is nothing to be gleeful about. We need to resolve this border issue, once and for all.

One Nepali writer – Mr. Bihari Krishna Shrestha - recently wrote as follows:

“Talking about Bhutan too, recently there was a BJP leader who had the impudence to tell his audience in Kathmandu that India would like to see Nepal remain “as happy as Bhutan”. One just has to ask the Bhutanese if they are happy to be remaining as what is basically India’s caged pet!”

Caged pet indeed! I should take offense at his remark – and I do – but not for the malice that was intended – but for failing to use a more precise nomenclature to describe the true nature of Bhutan-India relationship. By definition, “pet” is not a plaything – but an object of love and adoration and indulgence. Mr. Bihari Krishna Shrestha does not seem to be aware that Bhutan does not have the good fortune to be India’s pet. He would have been spot on if he had added a short 3-letters word “pup” before the “pet”.

Disengagement at Doklam between China and India is cold comfort for Bhutan. In fact, why are we even talking about it? But certainly, there is a lesson to be learnt from this incident – that Bhutan runs the risk of being violated by any one of these big powers, as and when they have a need for posturing. And they will do it with impunity – as has happened this June. So the answer is: sort it out once and for all. And let us do it quickly – the time for pussyfooting around the issue is over.

Without so much as a by your leave, two invading foreign armies were engaged in acts of aggression, in a region that we believe is ours. Our fear is not the dread of loss of territory that is in any event under dispute – but the fall out from a war that is not of our waging. If China and India wishes to engage in war, they should do so in their own territories – not on ours.

Until this Doklam incident happened, 99% of Bhutanese did not know that there was a dispute between China and Bhutan, at that location which is now being called Doka-La. My own understanding was that the dispute was further up North where the Google map clearly shows as disputed territory – a patch of land known as Doklam Plateau. The dispute down south I have never heard before, nor does the Google map show it as a disputed territory.

Ever since the Doklam incident, I have started to look at the map a little more closely. Because, frankly, the treaty of 1890 that keeps popping up does not relate to Bhutan and its territorial boundaries. For me, the traditional knowledge of the Haaps and the Tibetans is more authentic than the lines drawn on the map - because they have physically lived those boundaries that have existed for hundreds of years. I am unwilling to accept that those imaginary lines drawn across the map – like those of the McMahon Lines in the North-East, hold water because the boundaries were never surveyed and demarcated between Bhutan and Tibet-China.

China and India are big countries – but truth is bigger than both of them combined. Thus, let us settle the borders, based on what is THE TRUTH. One cannot hope to alter the truth simply because it does not suite ones purpose.

All manners of maps are being put out in the internet - there is whole lot of confusion out there. For the benefit of the confused Bhutanese, I spent some time to study the maps and the claims and counter claims being made on the territories. In the following maps, I have clearly marked what is the current claim made by Bhutan and those made by China. Rest I leave to your imagination.



  1. I would not be so pessimistic, or think nothing changed.because of this incident, now the world know Bhutan is a independent country, and want be treated and will be treated like one.

  2. Would Delhi tighten its grip on Thimphu, step up RAW surveillence,
    increase military presence, clamp down on dissents ?
    Thats the worry.

  3. Article 1 of 1890 Convention: The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet was defined as the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Teesta River in Sikkim and its tributaries from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu River and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commenced at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and followed the above watershed to the point where it met Nepali territory.

  4. Dear Yeshey Dorji,

    Could you upload the map pictures with high resolution?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Anon,
      This is as high as it can get ... and I have already deleted the images from my computer.

    2. You can install google earth or google earthpro for free then correlate and view these images the way you want in 2D or 3D views.

    3. Hi Anon .... thanks I will try and do that