Little covered in the NLMSM is a growing dispute among Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, and India over a region of Bhutan called Doklam. Bhutan is a landlocked, high altitude nation in the eastern Himalayas. Who cares? Bhutan and India do. And the US should.
Doklam is a region of Bhutan that abuts PRC-occupied Tibet, and by seizing Doklam the PRC would be able to further isolate TIbet, the better to deal with its impertinence. Doklam also sits along a narrow stretch of India that lies among Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh; occupying of Doklam would position the PRC to choke off a large region of India that lies beyond it: six states, three of which border on India’s Arunachal Pradesh—a state that the PRC claims for itself under the fiction that it’s a part of its occupied Tibet.
The proximate problem is a PRC effort to build a road into and through Doklam, the better (say most observers) to allow the PLA to enter and spread out into the region, sealing its occupation. Naturally, Bhutan demurred from this, and it asked for Indian assistance in stopping the PRC. India answered, sent troops into the region, and forced a halt to the construction. The PRC is objecting to this “interference.”
Now the PRC, through its press organ in the region, the South China Morning Post, is insisting that the situation is none of India’s business, and India should butt out—leaving the behemoth to partition the tiny.
The PRC, through this organ, even is making the cynical claim that Bhutan can’t possibly be sovereign over a “patch of territory which [it] does not effectively control.” Never mind that the reason Bhutan doesn’t control this patch of its territory is because the PRC is occupying it, and Bhutan alone is too small to dislodge it. Here is the extent of the cynicism:
New Delhi must push Thimpu [the Bhutan capital] to take the lead in engaging Beijing and devise a mutually acceptable boundary protocol that acknowledges China’s effective jurisdiction of the area….
Bhutan, and India along with it, must abjectly surrender.
We should become active in supporting India and Bhutan against this further example of PRC aggression, especially as it threatens not just Bhutan, but India as well—a potentially powerful ally in southern Asia.
This also would have implications for us far beyond aiding a little guy and a potential ally. Coming in bluntly on the side of India and Bhutan and opposing PRC aggression in southern Asia would be a clear signal (certainly, concrete action would need to follow) to other Asian nations—rimming the East and South China Seas, for instance—that pivot or no, we are moving to protect our and our friends’ and allies’ interests throughout Asia and the seas adjoining it.