NEW DELHI: India and the US are understood to have increased their strategic cooperation and coordination following reports of fresh deployment of People’s Liberation Army troopers near Doklam and their incursion into Bhutan.
The Trump administration that had explicitly supported India during the Doklam standoff is apparently worried about the moves by the PLA in the region ahead of the Chinese Communist Party Congress later this month. Acting US envoy to India, MaryKay L Carlson, visited Thimpu this week immediately after foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s trip, and held discussions with the Bhutanese Prime Minister amid the latest developments.
Carlson called on Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, on Wednesday. Since Washington does not have any diplomatic mission in Thimphu, the American Embassy in New Delhi manages US relations with Bhutan.
While India has a challenge at hand from neighbouring China that is increasingly turning belligerent, the US has been closely monitoring developments in this region as it seeks to balance the rise of Beijing, according to an expert on American foreign policy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received a call from American President Donald Trump on August 15, at a time when China’s rhetoric against India had escalated tension between the two neighbours. Trump had greeted Modi on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, and along with the PM sent out a message to increasingly aggressive China by resolved to work together to “enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region”.
The back-to-back visits of the Indian foreign secretary and the US envoy to Thimphu came at a time when reports indicated that PLA’s soldiers had made at least three incursions into the territory claimed by Bhutan along its disputed border with China.
Amid reports of road construction in Doklam by PLA MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Friday night claimed that status quo prevailed in Doklam and its vicinity since August 28 disengagement and any other suggestion is incorrect.
The reports about fresh incursions by the PLA came a month after India and China ended a 73-day-long military face-off at the Doklam plateau in the western region of the Himalayan State. Incidentally, the PLA move also comes after Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s visit to India for the annual India-Japan Summit that sought to expand strategic partnership against common challenges.
Japan, whose territorial integrity has also been challenged by China, was the only country that issued a public statement in India’s favour during the Doklam episode.