China’s initiative to build infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa by land and sea will change the global economy. An excerpt from Belt and Road by Bruno Maçães
Published 6.02.19, 1:32 AM Updated 6.02.19, 1:32 AM
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The truth of the matter is that the Belt and Road poses a number of seemingly intractable challenges for India. Most obviously, it threatens to turn Pakistan’s occupation of part of Kashmir into a fait accompli.Image: iStock
In June 2017 Chinese troops were spotted extending a road through a strip of land disputed between China and Bhutan. India perceived this as an unacceptable change to the status quo and crossed its own border—in this case a perfectly settled one—to block those works. The Doklam plateau slopes down to the Siliguri Corridor, a narrow strip of Indian territory dividing the Indian mainland from its North Eastern states. Were China able to block off the corridor it would isolate India’s North Eastern region from the rest of the country, a devastating scenario in the event of war.
Colonel Vinayak Bhat served in the Indian Army for over thirty years. He was a satellite imagery analyst, stationed in high altitude areas, where he also attended border personnel meetings as a Mandarin interpreter. I asked him why he thought Beijing was so determined to establish control over the Doklam plateau. After all, these border areas are far removed from any population center, and in many cases the actual border is difficult to determine —the demarcation goes back to old treaties between the Qing Empire and the British Raj and outdated, hand-drawn maps. Does it matter who gains an advantage here? “It matters,” Bhat told me emphatically. “If the Chinese control Doklam, especially South Doklam, they will be able to threaten the Siliguri Corridor. After the Doklam plateau it will all be downhill. You need anything from nine to sixteen battalions in these high altitude mountains for each defensive battalion. So that changes the calculations.”