Indian media have come up with fresh accusations that 1,600 to 1,800 Chinese troops have been “camping” on the disputed Doklam Plateau, the combustible border area between Tibet and Bhutan, whose exact delineation is yet to be accepted by both Beijing and New Delhi.
This comes after the 73 days of bitter tit-for-tat polemics in the summer between the two countries, a row sparked by construction of a road there that was said to be meant to speed up deployment by the People’s Liberation Army.
Two helipads, a dozen prefabricated homes and even shops are among the permanent structures that have been erected there, according to Indian newspapers.
Previously, observers thought the two sides might back down as winter takes over the rugged highland. PLA soldiers used to patrol the area only in the months of April and May in the spring and October and November in the autumn.
“China is keen to usurp Doklam to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan,” The Times of India reported.
“The PLA troops have stayed put in what we consider to be Bhutanese territory for the first time this winter. But the status quo prevails at the earlier face-off site,” the paper quoted sources in the Indian security establishment as saying.
In Chinese media, an op-ed appeared in Global Times on Monday that acknowledged, though implicitly, such fortifications in Doklam, stressing that New Delhi must now “accept the fallout and reality” with its repeated “invasions” of the Chinese soil, the latest of which involved an Indian military drone that crashed in Tibet while reportedly on a reconnaissance mission this month.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also said China had every right to deploy and marshal its troops within its own borders, while dodging the question about how long the the brigade of troops would remain on the Doklam Plateau.
The same Global Times editorial also contained a “warm reminder” that New Delhi should not get hysterical about the security of its Siliguri Corridor, also known as the “Chicken’s Neck,” which links the eastern region to the rest of India. It said New Delhi stood “zero chance” of winning a border-area arms race, if there is any, since China’s engineering and construction expertise and funding capabilities could instantly send bulldozers to work in any harsh environment.
Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat warned in September that China would still try to nibble away, bit by bit, “like salami slicing,” disputed areas between the two countries.