China and India in war of words over Bhutan border dispute

Bhutan stretches across the Himalayas,

Story highlights

  • China accused of violating territorial agreements in Doklam area
  • Doklam holds immense strategic importance for India

(CNN)A Chinese road building project in the Himalayas has become the center of an escalating border dispute between India and China, with both sides accusing the other of territorial intrusions.

Described by the Indian government as a "significant change of status quo with serious security implications for India," the controversial road runs through the disputed Doklam Plateau, on the unmarked border between China and Bhutan.
    Though not a part of Indian territory, the plateau holds immense strategic importance for Delhi and is vital to its geopolitical interests.
    "The area in contention is extremely close to a very vulnerable stretch of Indian territory that effectively connects the bulk of India to its northeastern states," Shashank Joshi, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London told CNN.
    "Additional construction could skew the local balance of power in China's favor, essentially leaving India more vulnerable to invasion in case of a military confrontation with Beijing."

    Tri-region issue

    Objections were first raised by the Bhutanese government, which issued a demarche, or formal statement, accusing China of constructing a road "inside Bhutanese territory" in "direct violation" of its territorial treaty obligations, earlier last week.
    India and Bhutan have maintained historically strong relations. Bhutan co-operates closely with India in determining its foreign policy, and the Indian Army is involved in the training of its armed forces.
    China, which does not have formal diplomatic ties with Bhutan, has denied that it has violated any treaties.
    "Doklam has been a part of China since ancient times. It does not belong to Bhutan, still less India," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang on Wednesday.
    "China's construction of road in Doklam is an act of sovereignty on its own territory. It is completely justified and lawful, and others have no right to interfere."
    Lu added that it was "utterly unjustifiable" for the Indian side to interfere in issues between the two countries.
    Bhutan quick facts

    Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a small landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas. It lies on the border between India and China.

    With a population of less than a million people, it is the second least populated country in Asia.

    The country is officially a Buddhist kingdom, with the King of Bhutam Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangc