India has proposed to build a road in Bhutan’s ‘Yeti territory’ — which China claimed recently — enabling New Delhi to quickly access Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China.
The road, which has strategic significance, will reduce the distance between Guwahati and Tawang by 150 kilometres, ET has learnt.
This will enable India to deploy troops faster to respond to any military moves by China, not only across Tawang, but also towards the eastern region of Bhutan.
China’s new claim of territory in far-eastern Bhutan is linked to its claim on 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh, according to experts familiar with the eastern sector of the India-China boundary.
China claims Tawang as part of its policy to have absolute control over Tibet. The sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang and the current Dalai Lama fled to India via Tawang.
India has earmarked Border Roads Organisation to build the road, which is important for Bhutan as well. The road will connect Lumla near Tawang with Trashigang in Bhutan. New Delhi and Thimphu have shared security interests.
In June, China tried to block funding by an international agency for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in far-eastern Bhutan. It claimed that the sanctuary as well as the areas around it were parts of disputed territory.
On its part, Thimphu served a demarche, stating that the territorial dispute between Bhutan and China were limited only to 269 sq km in the western sector and 495 sq km in the north-central sector of the boundary between them. It asserted that no part of its territory in the eastern sector was ever on the agenda of its boundary negotiation.
The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashigang district in far-eastern Bhutan and the areas around it have traditionally been believed to be home to the mythical ‘Yeti’ or ‘Migoi’ in Bhutanese. The area is also home to Brokpas — a semi-nomadic population which migrated from Tibet in the 14th century.
Bhutan and China have been negotiating to settle the boundary dispute since 1984. Till last month, China never registered any claim on Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary or any other area in eastern Bhutan during the 24 rounds of boundary negotiations between 1984 and 2016. The boundary negotiations have remained in cold storage since the Dokalam crisis of 2017.