The winter knocking at Doklam has also brought around 1,600-1,800 Chinese troops who has apparently set up a permanent base in the disputed area near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. There have been measures taken to withstand the chilling winter including the construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, pre-fabricated huts and stores.
While India’s strategy of not letting China extend its existing road in Doklam towards the Jampheri ridge turned out pretty fine according to the Indian Security establishment sources, but the fallout has become People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops’ permanent hub in the region.
“Earlier, PLA patrols would come to Doklam, which is disputed between China and Bhutan, between April-May and October-November every year to mark their presence and lay claim to the area before going back,” a source informed.
“Now, after the 73-day eyeball-to-eyeball troop confrontation at Doklam between India and China ended on August 28, 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,” he added.
This course of action seems similar to what had already been warned about by General Bipin Rawat, in September, that China would continue to grab pieces by pieces of the disputed territories using different tactics.
Having Indian troops already secured the strategically dominating positions in the tri-junction region, China now seek to wrest Doklam in order to strengthen its narrow Chumbi valley which is at an extension between Sikkim and Bhutan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping further consolidated his power through the 19th congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October with a second five-year term and elevation to the status of party founder Mao Zedong and his successor, Deng Xiaoping.
In mid-June, India was pushed for the first time ever to object Chinese military patrol in Doklam in order to stop the PLA troops from constructing a road that could mean severe security risk.
On June 18th, Indian soldiers had to come down the ridge slope from their Doka a post to cross into Doklam. The action of blocking Chinese troops from constructing the road was taken to secure the area overlooking our so-called “Chicken’s Neck” area aka India’s militarily vulnerable Siliguri corridor.
The heated situation soon turned into a face-off between India and China with both countries moving forward additional infantry battalions. On August 28th, the situation was mutually defused with both the parties disengaging and pulling back over 150 metres from the face-off site. After that PM Narendra Modi attended the Brics summit in Xiamen, China, from September 3 to 5.
Though there has been relative peace at the Doklam site since then, but both sides continue to maintain low-key preparedness along the LOC. China had also constructed accommodation for troops and helipads while upgrading its existing motorable road in Doklam.
“But the PLA has not undertaken any fresh road construction activity southwards towards the Jampheri ridge”. “We will have to wait and watch how things develop in the months ahead,” said a source.