New Delhi: A tense game is being played out on Bhutan's border with China where Beijing is demanding territorial concessions that could bring it closer to India's sensitive Siliguri Corridor. Visiting Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Thinley is expected to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
Thinley will be discussing more than gross national happiness when he meets Manmohan. Sources told CNN-IBN that Bhutan is under mounting pressure from Beijing to settle a territorial issue on its terms.
China rejects the present border with Bhutan - it says the border should actually run about eight kilometre deep inside Bhutan, curving all the way down to the Dolam plateau which is the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction. The claim reflects its insecurity over the Chumbi valley in Tibet. All troop and vehicle movements can be monitored by Indian troops stationed in Sikkim and all Chinese posts and logistic hubs are within range of Indian artillery.
China's motivations are clearly driven by the need to shield its troop movements from Indian observation and also give strategic depth to the Chumbi valley.
China is already reported to have laid some motorable tracks into its claim area in Bhutan. It has also claimed some areas in northern Bhutan. It is pushing Bhutan to establish diplomatic relations and wants to negotiate a trade agreement at the earliest.
For India, any Chinese inroad into Bhutan heightens the risk to the Siliguri Corridor - the narrow highway bordering Bhutan which links up with the north eastern states. With Indian backing, Bhutan has been able to hold off the Chinese advances but as democracy takes hold in the dragon kingdom, India may have to contend with diverse players some of whom may see advantage in playing the China card.