Thimphu [Bhutan], April 4 (ANI): Despite being the fastest-growing economies and consistently ranked as the happiest country in Asia, Bhutan's future is threatened by China, according to a report published in The National Interest.
Georgia Leatherdale-Gilholy, associate writer for Foundation for Uyghur Freedom and a Young Voices contributor, in an opinion piece, said that China's 1951 annexation of Tibet has brought Beijing closer to Bhutan's doorstep than ever before, and successive Chinese administrations have since laid ever-expanding claims on areas integral to the kingdom's historic and strategic territory.
Bhutan is budding democracy with a fierce spirit of cultural independence in a rapidly globalizing world. The writer said, "Whatever threats and opportunities China poses, Bhutan has plenty of positive reasons to align itself with the United States and India. Thus, as China edges towards closer economic and possibly formal diplomatic ties with Bhutan, it is vital that America gets serious about doing the same."
According to the report, China's advance, however, has accompanied an increase in high-stakes clashes such as the 72-day border standoff in 2017, in which Indian troops stopped their Chinese counterparts from constructing a road through Bhutan's 14,000 ft Doklam Plateau.
"If completed, this passage would facilitate Chinese military access to the Siliguri corridor and thus India's resource-rich northeastern states. For obvious reasons, it is in the US and Indian interests to prevent a Bhutan-China settlement that would cede this strategic zone to the latter. The opening of a US embassy in Thimphu, and a continuation of its commitments to India will be crucial steps towards this," the report said.
Although China maintains no embassy or official diplomatic relations with Bhutan.
In December 2020, satellite footage revealed the Chinese military's construction of an entire village in the Doklam Plateau area. The author further stated, "Other areas of Western Bhutan have also been gradually encroached upon by China to secure access to the Indian frontier and sure up supply chains in the event of war. China's claims have now expanded to include areas of Central and Eastern Bhutan, where since June 2020 China has claimed the 650 sq km Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary."
Citing the report of a 1996 United States Institute of Peace on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, The National Interest reported that the analysts pointed to such actions as "so-called 'salami tactics,' in which China tests the other claimants through aggressive actions, then backs off when it meets significant resistance." These tactics have been seen throughout the last three decades, including more recently in the South China Sea.
The United States must prove its commitment to ensuring Bhutan's safety and individuality against the forces of globalization and Chinese President Xi Jinping's-style of imperialism if it is to gain the small nation's trust, the report added.
After issuing a press statement on the border standoff in June 2017, the Bhutanese government and media maintained a studious silence which has characterized their public reaction to Chinese incursions. Is it that China has been able to bully Bhutan into acceptance. Yet, Bhutan remains one of the only states on China's Southern border--alongside India and Afghanistan--to have not officially (nor unofficially) signed onto the USD 8 billion Belt-and-Road Initiative. (ANI)