China has raised a new border conflict, this time with Bhutan. China is still engaged in a bitter border clash with India in the Ladakh region while Beijing has publicly put on record that it has a boundary dispute with Bhutan, a traditional and close Indian-ally.
China made these claims over Bhutan while opposing a request to develop the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district at an online meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Bhutan reportedly protested to the Chinese claim, and the GEF council passed the project for funding. The GEF, according to reports, discarded the Chinese claim and sanctioned the Sakteng wildlife sanctuary project.
The Chinese representative according to the minutes of the council meeting said — “in light of the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in the project ID 10561 is located in the China-Bhutan disputed areas which is on the agenda of China-Bhutan boundary talk, China opposes and does not join the Council decision on this project”.
The Council member for the Constituency of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka requested that the views of Bhutan be reflected as follows: “Bhutan totally rejects the claim made by the Council Member of China. Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan and at no point during the boundary discussions between Bhutan and China has it featured as a disputed area”.
The sanctuary, located in the easternmost part of Bhutan, has never been contested by China in the past. The Chinese foreign ministry, in a statement issued to Hindustan Times said — “The boundary between China and Bhutan has never been delimited. There have been disputes over the eastern, central and western sectors for a long time, and there are no new disputed areas. China always stands for a negotiated package solution to the China-Bhutan boundary issue.”
The statement in Mandarin further said “a third party should not point fingers” in the China-Bhutan border dispute – an obvious reference to India. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs is monitoring the new claims closely since Bhutan and China had disputed areas in only two points — north and west.
Referring to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement – experts state that China has found an appropriate time to raise the Bhutan-China border as India was already under pressure due to ongoing skirmishes. The timing of the Chinese statement reflects its intention to put pressure on Bhutan and India, seeking to create a wedge between both the nations.
Earlier, as reported by EurAsian Times, China’s growing disputes with multiple Asian nations and the muscle-flexing in the South China Sea is proof of its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy. China has intensified tensions with India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and now with Bhutan.
The term ‘wolf warrior’ emerged from a popular 2015 Chinese movie of the same name premised on soldiers going out and teaching the enemies of China a lesson.
“Xi Jinping is just lashing out a number of countries, not just India, South China Sea, the US, Kazakhastan, Western Europe and is part of a broader project. This is extremely dangerous because if Xi Jinping faces setbacks, then he may believe that he will lose power and may take ‘dangerous’ actions to please his domestic audience, experts believe.