China building settlements near disputed border with Bhutan: Report

China has accelerated building settlements along its disputed border with Bhutan as Beijing has erected over 200 structures, including some still under construction, at six locations, according to a report by Reuters, which has examined satellite images of the disputed location

Jan 12, 2022
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China has accelerated building settlements along its disputed border with Bhutan as Beijing has erected over 200 structures, including some still under construction, at six locations, according to a report by Reuters, which has examined satellite images of the disputed location. 

Activities started in early 2020 along Bhutan's western border, with the building of roads and then area clearing. It intensified in 2021, Reuters quoted Chris Biggers, the mission applications director at HawkEye 360 firm which provided the intelligence account based on satellites images. 

The area under construction appears to fall well under the 110 sq km of the disputed zone between China and Bhutan. Last year, the two nations signed a memorandum of understanding, fast-tracking the boundary talks to resolve the border dispute. 

"It is Bhutan's policy not to talk about boundary issues in the public," Bhutan's foreign ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters in response to the report. China's foreign ministry said the construction is "entirely for the improvement of the working and living conditions of the local people."

Bhutan, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with China, keeps India in confidence regarding its boundary negotiation with China.   

The villages where China is undertaking construction activities also offer Beijing some strategic value, the report said. The site is 9 to 27km from the Doklam area at the junction of the borders of India, Bhutan, and China, where Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a standoff for more than two months in 2017.

China’s Foreign Ministry said, "It is within China's sovereignty to carry out normal construction activities on its own territory." 

Bhutan has been holding boundary talks with Beijing for almost four decades to settle their 477-km border. Any settlement between the two nations will also have implications for India which shares close security and political ties with Bhutan. 

Experts said the recent escalation of construction activities appears to be another Chinese tactic to force the Himalayan Kingdom an early outcome. Earlier reports indicated that Beijing had been offering concessions to Bhutan on its western border and seeking the same from Bhutan on the eastern front, which is a trijunction between India, Bhutan, China, and hold extreme strategic importance for New Delhi. 

(SAM)

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