China widens road near Doklam, India says no strategic impact

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A little over a month after India and China ended a tense border standoff at Doklam near Sikkim, it has emerged that the People’s Liberation Army has begun constructing a road about 10 to 12 km from the site where the two armies were locked in a faceoff for 73 days.

Army sources confirmed that the PLA was constructing a road in Chumbi valley but added that the area was under Chinese control and the development did not have strategic implications for India. Around 500 soldiers are present in the area where the road construction is being carried out.

In Doklam, China had accused India of trespass and preventing its troops from building a road in the remote Himalayan plateau that is claimed by both China and Bhutan. The 73-day standoff ended with withdrawal of troops and China removing road-building equipment.

The sources said, “The same equipment and workers are being used to strengthen an existing kutcha road about 10-12 km from the last faceoff site. The area is under their control.”

India and China had agreed to pull back troops to end the months-long Doklam face-off on August 28. The decision put a lid on one of the most serious disputes between the nuclear-armed neighbours who share a 3,500-km mountain frontier that remains undemarcated in most places. It came days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to China to attend a summit of BRICS, a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa. China pulled back its bulldozers and other road-constructing equipment.

The Doklam standoff between India and China along the Sikkim border was likely to be the new normal, a reputed defence think tank had warned after the standoff, making a strong case for building military capabilities as China respects strength.

In a paper titled Looking Beyond Doklam, the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), a think tank set up by the defence ministry a decade ago, said it is crucial for India to demonstrate strength as peace along the disputed border or Line of Actual Control (LAC) will be “constantly and continuously” under stress with “increase in frequency, intensity and depth of (Chinese) transgressions leading to more and more standoffs”.

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