For over a month, India and China have been involved in a stand-off at Doklam Plateau near Nathu La.
Doklam Plateau is a disputed territory between India’s arch enemy China and close ally Bhutan. The plateau lies at the junction of India, Bhutan and China and is vital for India for it’s close proximity to the “chicken’s neck” in the Siliguri corridor of India. This corridor connects north eastern India to the mainland and is an important trade route.
The stand-off began in June when India opposed China’s road construction across the Doklam Plateau. India maintained that China was trespassing Bhutan’s territory and was violating a 1998 agreement to maintain status quo in the disputed area. However, China claimed that it has rights over the territory and was backed by a series of documents.
On June 29, the Chinese officials pointed to a 1890 agreement Britain and China which read,
The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal territory.
Declaring that Doklam falls into the Chinese side of the water-parting, Chinese Foreign Minister, Lu Kang, showed a photograph where the India soldiers had allegedly overstepped into Chinese territory on June 18. Kang further added,
Before the 1960s, if border inhabitants of Bhutan wanted to herd in Doklam, they needed the consent of the Chinese side and had to pay the grass tax to China. Nowadays the Tibet Archives still retain some receipts of the grass tax.
On July 3, Chinese Spokesperson, Geng Shuang, displayed two letters that Nehru wrote in 1959 where Nehru had written that there is no dispute between Sikkim, Tibet and China to the Chinese PM, Zhou Enlai.
However, according to a leading newspaper, the area mentioned in the letters was a different one that the territory in dispute currently. Nehru wrote,
This Convention of 1890 also defined the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet; and the boundary was later, in 1895, demarcated. There is thus no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region. This clearly refers to northern Sikkim and not to the tri-junction which needed to be discussed with Bhutan and Sikkim and which is today the contentious area. And once more, let us not forget that the 1890 Treaty was an unequal treaty as Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan were not involved.
On July 5, when a journalist asked Shuang if he has any documents supporting Chinese claim on Doklam, the spokesman dodged the question.