Washington: China has quietly resumed its activities in the Doklam area and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it, a top US official has said while comparing Beijing’s actions in the Himalayan region with its manoeuvres in the disputed South China Sea.
“I would assess that India is vigorously defending its northern borders and this is a subject of concern to India,” Alice G Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing while responding to a question on China’s increased road building activities along the Indian border.
“As (India) ahead to its own strategic stability, it certainly helps drive and is a factor in driving closer partnership that we enjoy with India,” Wells said in response to a question from Congresswoman Ann Wagner.
India and China have clashed repeatedly over territories in the Himalayas. Most recently Chinese and Indian troops faced off on the disputed Doklam plateau between Bhutan and China after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army began building roads through the area, Wagner said.
“Although both countries back down, China has quietly resumed its activities in Doklam and neither Bhutan nor India has sought to dissuade it. China’s activities in the Himalayas remind me of its south China Sea policies. How should our failure to respond to the militarisation of the South China Sea inform the international response to these Himalayan border disputes?” Wagner asked.
As the US looks to the Indo-Pacific strategy put forward by the Trump administration, Wells said it has been taken in light of the ‘South China Sea’s Strategy’.
Congressman Ted Yoho, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific, raised the issue of China’s aggressive posture in South Asia.
The US should not be seeking to compete with China dollar for dollar, Wells responded, adding that instead of a state lending on terms that may not be to the benefit of countries or their citizens, the US and its companies are providing $850 billion in foreign direct investment in the region, which is far more than what has been injected by China.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from 16 June last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army.
Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on 28 August.