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Base in Gobi Desert shows Chinese Military capabilities like US Army


As China’s military capabilities continue to rapidly expand and mature, so do the bases that support and test them. Case in point, the Dingxin Test and Training Base, a sprawling facility located Gansu Province, in the Gobi Desert, an area that has long been a military and weapons testing stronghold for the People’s Liberation Army. The base is one of the most unique in China as it supports the development of tactics and weaponry and advanced training of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) units in high-end, complex scenarios. Live fire drills are also a big part of what goes on there. The base hosts a fleet of aggressor fighters, as well as full-scale aerial target drones, the latter of which are converted largely from stocks of antique MiG clones. As such, Dingxin is roughly analogous to Nellis Air Force Base in the United States, with a bit of Eglin Air Force Base and Edwards Air Force Base mixed in.

With relative seclusion, wide-open airspace, expansive training range complexes, and good weather for year-round flying operations, Dingxin is home to the country’s highest-profile fighter and attack aircraft exercises, including the annual air-to-air focused Golden Helmet and air-to-ground focused Golden Dart competitions. Large force employment (LFE) exercises like Red Sword, roughly similar to the United States Air Force’s Red Flag, and Red and Golden Shield, which include advanced competitive training for Chinese surface-to-air missile, anti-aircraft artillery, and electronic warfare units, also occur at and near the base

The installation is located next to Jiuquan City on the southern end of the expansive Shuangchengzi missile test range, an area full of unique facilities, some of which are quite intriguing, to say the least. In exclusive Planet Labs imagery from January 6th, 2020, we get a good look at this highly important installation and its many resident and visiting aircraft.

The base’s huge apron can facilitate well over 100 aircraft of all different types and does so regularly. Virtually every aircraft type in the PLA’s inventory has passed through the base and most do so regularly. The pink and beige-painted aggressors, which include Su-30s and J-10s, as well as less capable types, are a staple at Dingxin Test and Training Base and provide ‘red air’ support for the exercises and tests that occur there.

The installation’s training and tactics development activities are run by the Tactical Training Center’s 175th Air Brigade and the resident test unit that supports more cutting-edge flight test programs is the 176th Air Brigade, according to Scramble Magazine.


PLA Deploys Additional Troops Near LAC

China Agree To De-Escalate Border Conflict While PLA Deploys Additional Troops Near LAC
India-China Border Conflict
: During third senior military commander level meeting to discuss issues related to disengagement at the faceoff sites along the LAC and de-escalation from the border areas, India & China have emphasised need for an expeditious, phased & stepwise de-escalation as a priority – ANI

Published 20 hours ago on July 1, 2020 By EurAsian Times Desk
India-China border conflict may come to an end. There are also reports that India and China have agreed to de-escalate border conflict but there is no official confirmation as of now except media reports.

Global Times has learned China-India commander-level meeting has reached an agreement. The two sides will organize frontline troops disengagement in batches. Strong measures will be adopted to deescalate border tensions. I strongly hope the agreement can be implemented.

— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) July 1, 2020

During third senior military commander level meeting to discuss issues related to disengagement at the faceoff sites along the LAC and de-escalation from the border areas, India&China have emphasised need for an expeditious, phased & stepwise de-escalation as a priority: Sources

— ANI (@ANI) July 1, 2020

India and China have stressed the need for “an expeditious, phased and stepwise de-escalation as a priority,” Indian media reports say. “More meetings are expected both at the military and at the diplomatic level, in future, to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution and to ensure peace and tranquillity along the LAC as per bilateral agreements and protocols.”

India Deploys Israeli SPYDER Missiles Along With Akash Air Defence System Near China Border?

India-China Border Conflict
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has deployed more than 20,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The latest development even though India is closely monitoring the activities of another 10,000-12,000 Chinese troops deployed in Xinjiang with high mobility vehicles and weaponry in the rear positions with the capability to reach the Indian front in 2 days.

US-India Military Alliance Would Be A Strategic Nightmare For China – Chinese Experts Admit

Speaking to ANI, top government sources confirmed that the Chinese army had stationed troops in northern Ladakh along the LAC and as well as in the Northern Xinjiang province almost a 1,000 kilometres from the Indian front.

In a report published by Times of India, government sources assured that New Delhi is keeping a close eye on the movement of fresh troops along with the ones which have been deployed close to the Indian territory. The sources also explained that despite diplomatic talks between the countries, there has been no reduction in the number of troops or equipment by Beijing.

China Ready For A Two Front War With US In South China Sea & India-China Border?

The report also states that while China normally stations two units in Tibet, they have brought in close to two divisions extra from locations as far as 2,000 kilometres from mainland China for deployment against the Indians.

In the Pangong Lake and the Finger Area, the Chinese have settled themselves firmly on the Finger 8 area where they have also established an administrative base along with deployment of heavy vehicles and bigger boats.

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Government sources explained that roads constructed by Beijing allow the PLA troops to swiftly move to their positions faster than Indians. The Chinese are also creating proper military infrastructure in the area under them near the lake, the sources said.

India finds itself in a tough position ever since Pakistan got involved in the dispute between India and China. As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, Pakistan has also deployed 20,000 troops at the behest of Beijing in northern Ladakh. The deployment by Islamabad is to match the Chinese presence in the area and to open a two-front attack on New Delhi in the future.

JF-17 vs Rafale: Why Pakistani JF-17 Thunder Poses A Serious Threat To Indian Rafale Fighter Jets?

India Bolsters Defences Again China
To counter Chinese troop build-up in the region, India too has strengthened its defences. The Indian army has beefed up positions and added at least two divisions for the eastern Ladakh sector. This includes a mountain division which conducts annual war-games in the same area.

Additionally, the Indian Air Force has flown in tanks and BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles to join the existing elements of the armoured brigade deployed close to the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector. Keeping in mind Chinese aggression and deployment along with the DBO sector from Galwan Valley onwards to Karakoram Pass, the Indian Army is planning to add another division in the sector.

India-China War: China Has No ‘Military Advantage’ Over ‘Battle-Hardened’ Indian Army – CNN

The Indian government is preparing for the long run as it believes that the current situation would continue till October despite de-escalation talks between government officials and military brass. New Delhi expects the situation to improve after the onset of winter in the Galwan Valley.

The clash with China is one of the biggest challenges PM Narendra Modi has faced since he came to power in 2014. The feud between China and India kicked off in the first week of June and since then has seen military buildup, air patrols and drills and at one point clashes between India and Chinese soldiers which ended with casualties on both sides.


Now China opens new border dispute with Bhutan

China now claims Bhutan’s territory, Bhutan rejects Chinese claims but Bhutan rejected China’s claims and the council adopted the funding for Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.
In yet another new move to claim land in Bhutan, China at the 58th meeting of the Global Environment Facility Council tried to “oppose” funding to a project for the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary situated in Bhutan saying that it was “disputed” territory.

In reality, there has never been any dispute about where the sanctuary lay in the past, although the boundary between Bhutan and China is yet to be demarcated.

Bhutan sent a strong note to the representative handling Bhutan. The note said, “Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan.”

The interesting bit is that this wildlife sanctuary was never a part of any global funding so the first time it has come up as a project at the international platform, China grabbed it as an opportunity to lay claim to the land.

Although objections were raised and China opposed the move, the project has been cleared by majority of the council members and finds space in the final summary.

While China had a representative, Bhutan did not have a direct representative and was represented by an Indian IAS officer Aparna Subramani from the World Bank in-charge of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka.

On June 2, when the project-wise discussion was taking place, Chinese Council member Zhongjing Wang, Deputy Director, International Economic and Financial Cooperation Department, China; raised objection to the project in Bhutan asking it to be formally noted and duly attested in the footnote.

But, the next day when the final summary was to be adopted, the Chinese representative said that it no longer was an objection and that China would abstain from, instead he said that Beijing was “opposed” to the project and that it should be made part of the summary.

This is when the Indian officer speaking on behalf of Bhutan, Aparna Subramani, executive director, Indian Administrative Service, The World Bank, intervened and said that the claim is not “unchallenged” and it would not be fair to go ahead with the Chinese version unless there is clarity on Bhutan’s stand.

When Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson of the 58th meeting of the GEF Council, tried to reach a middle ground by proposing that views of both the countries be added to the highlights rather than the summary as “objection” rather that “opposition”. But, the Chinese representative was adamant since he did not have mandate to clear it and Beijing’s instructions were that it was to be opposed and be part of the summary.

While all other issues were adopted this one issue was discussed a day later and finally the consensus of the council was that Bhutan would get funds for the project and it was cleared under Bhutan’s name.

The objections were added in the highlights as ‘Agenda Item 10 Summary of the Chair’.

“The text of the Summary of the Chair enjoyed consensus. One Council Member proposed an amendment to Footnote 3. This amendment did not receive consensus. An alternative proposal was made that was accepted. The Summary of the Chair was adopted.”

The Council Member for the China constituency requested that its view be reflected as follows: “In light of the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in the project ID 10561 is located in the China-Bhutan disputed areas which is on the agenda of China-Bhutan boundary talk, China opposes and does not join the Council decision on this project.”

The Council Member for the Constituency of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka requested that the views of Bhutan be reflected as follows: “Bhutan totally rejects the claim made by the Council Member of China. Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is an integral and sovereign territory of Bhutan and at no point during the boundary discussions between Bhutan and China has it featured as a disputed area.”

Bhutan rejected China’s claims and the council adopted the funding for Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.


Chinese troops now stepping up activity near Arunachal Pradesh

With Chinese and Indian troops eyeball-to-eyeball at seven places inside India’s claimed territory in Ladakh and Sikkim, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has begun stepping up activity opposite Arunachal Pradesh as well.

Indian government sources say PLA troops here are reinforcing their posts in large numbers, increasing their patrolling, and stepping up violations of the Indian border, which in Arunachal Pradesh runs along the McMahon Line


UN Changes Phrase In 75th Anniversary Draft After India, 5 Others Object

In a strong message for China, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Tijjani Muhammad-Bande changed the language of the resolution to be adopted by UN on the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the global body.

The resolution that will be adopted in September will have a new sentence and not the one that has been a key part of Chinese foreign policy and backed by the Chinese communist party.

This after 6 countries – India, US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand objected to the use of language – “community with a shared future for mankind’, which has been talked about by Chinese Xi Jinping many times as his vision for the world.

Several European countries were not very happy with the use of the phase. UN member state sources told WION, “Its a much broader concern shared by many.”

The concept and the language – community with a shared future for mankind – first talked about by former Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary Hu Jintao is strongly backed by Chinese president and current general secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping. Xi has raised the concept and the language on many occasions including during his UNGA Speech at the 70th session of the body and his speech at World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2017.

Another UN source explained, “UNGA President proposing an alternate language..its recognition of what we had asked for, vindicates our stance”

Interestingly, China had put the phase under “silence” procedure and not at the negotiation stage which many UN member believe is not by chance. Under the silence procedure, the proposal is deemed to be passed, if no one “breaks the silence” by raising a concern. China had not taken kindly to the “silence” being broken and backed by Pakistan, Syria and Russia had written a letter to UN.

The proposed wording by UNGA President “for the common future of present and coming generations” was given approval for the resolution via silence procedure with China not objecting to it. Any objection by China could have led to a deadlock, and perhaps a controversy even as UN marks 75th year of existence.

The resolution which has been put on UN Website calls for reforms and lists out 12 commitments with COVID-19 pandemic reminding “us in the most powerful way that we are only as strong as our weakest link”.

On COVID, the resolution says, “It is even more important as we build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic….We need a strong UN development system” and “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reverberate around our world. In a matter of weeks, the pandemic manifested itself as the largest global challenge in the history of the UN”

Declaration has strong references to terrorism, peacekeeping operations of U.N. which are of direct interest to India and key priorities for New Delhi.

On UNSC reforms which India has been talking for a long time, the resolution says “we commit to instil new life in the discussions on the reform of the security council…” highlighting how the world of today is very different from what it was when the UN was created 75 years ago.

On terror, the resolution says, “Terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism are serious threats to international peace and security.”

It pays tributes to UN peacekeepers saying, “Over the years, more than one million women and men have served under the UN flag in more than 70 peacekeeping operations”. India is the 4th highest troop-contributing countries with more than 6700 troops from India being deployed on UN peacekeeping missions.

Reinvigorated multilateralism is also a word which appears, which is also a matter which Indian PM Modi himself has articulated as reformed multilateralism.

All of the above which the resolution talks about also forms key focus areas for India as it sits at the United Nations Security Council from 1st January 2021 for a period of 2 years. It was elected earlier this month and got 184 votes and was the sole candidate for the Asia Pacific seat.

India’s priority areas as UNSC elected member are – new opportunities for progress, effective response to international terrorism, reforming the multilateral system, comprehensive approach to international peace and security and promoting technology with a human touch as a driver of solutions.


How China Built, Consolidated Key Galwan Position In 33 Days

New Delhi: A series of satellite images between May 22 and June 26 have enabled NDTV to piece together and visually showcase Chinese construction on the river-bend of the Galwan as it crosses the Line of Actual Control and flows into territory held by India in Ladakh.
It was in the area around this embankment, including at an Indian Army patrolling point called Patrol Point 14 (PP-14), that Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed on June 15. Twenty Indian soldiers and their Commanding Officer, a Colonel, were killed in action here. India believes at least 45 Chinese soldiers, including a Colonel suffered the same fate.

It has been widely reported that the embankment on the Galwan river-bend is in Indian territory, in other words a clear-cut intrusion by the Chinese Army. A line denoting the LAC here on Google Earth Pro appears to indicate that the extent of the intrusion is 137 metres. However, since the LAC has never been officially delineated in Ladakh (the root of the present dispute), the extent of the incursion can be debated.

What is clear, though, is that the Indian Army has patrolled up to the embankment area for decades. This is no longer possible because of Chinese construction activity in the Galwan basin which appears to end at the river-bend, in other words, the location of the embankment.

The embankment is crucial as it enables Chinese forces to look down the Galwan Valley towards Indian positions on the banks of the river a short distance away. A stone wall (sangar) constructed across the river on the bank opposite the embankment appears to be a defensive position of the Indian Army. Parts of this appear to have been submerged by rising waters of the fast-flowing Galwan in the latest images of June 26. No Indian soldiers appear to be present at the site.

A single Igloo-style hut is visible on the Galwan embankment with approximately 20 soldiers visible.
The images acquired by NDTV from Maxar and Planet Labs indicate the presence of a single Igloo-style shelter on the embankment on May 22 and approximately 20 soldiers. It is unclear if these were Indian or Chinese soldiers. There is no construction activity visible around this structure on May 22. The next image, of June 16, comes a day after the fatal clashes between soldiers of both sides. All that is visible here in the image of June 16 is debris with no signs of any construction or of any soldiers.

The subsequent two images of this site are starkly different from what was visible earlier. High resolution satellite images from Maxar of June 22 appear to show the presence of rock fortifications on the embankment with parts of the area covered with what appears to be pink tarpaulin. At least 50 soldiers appear to be visible in the embankment area, including approximately 25 soldiers standing together just 150 metres away from the tip of the embankment (as it juts into the Galwan River). At least four new shelters are visible attached to the rock face near the embankment, none of which were present in the image of June 16 or in any of the previous images described. These shelters, which appear to be tents, are camouflaged in the colour of the rock face that they have been erected against.

The final image shown here is a Planet Labs image from June 25 and seems to show consolidation of the embankment position. Some of the pink tarpaulins have been replaced with black coloured ones. The area itself appears to have been ‘cleaned up,’ with several of the rock fortifications no longer visible. The row of shelters along the rock-face seen in the images of June 22 is visible here as well. Significantly, the Galwan River appears in spate in this image. A part of the stone wall (sangar) erected on the opposite bank of the river (the Indian Army position) appears to have been submerged. The wall itself is not clearly visible.

Chinese construction in Galwan – Satellite images of Galwan embankment on June 22, 2020 and June 25, 2020. Black tarpaulins visible on June 25. Area appears çleaned up.
The images of the embankment on the Galwan river-bend clearly indicate heightened Chinese military activity in a spot of great tactical importance. The embankment is at the end of a nine-kilometre stretch where Chinese forces have broadened the valley on their side of the LAC, black-topped a part of the road, built culverts, deployed hundreds of vehicles and established as many as 16 camps (pre-fabricated huts) within this short stretch. These are all clear indicators that there are no signs of mutual military disengagement in the the Galwan Valley till June 26, the last date on which these satellite images were acquired.


New satellite pictures show Chinese Army build up in Ladakh

China has not halted — and instead has ramped up — its military activity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, with a concentration of soldiers, military vehicles, earth-moving machinery, and erection of structures, including near the same point where Indian and Chinese troops clashed on the night of June 15, according to two senior officials and satellite imagery of the area on June 22.

The Indian army has observed a new structure, suspected to be an observation post, come up near Patrol Point (PP) 14, the site of the clash which left 20 personnel of the Indian army and an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops dead, said one of the officials cited above.

There was no official word from the army on either of the developments. India and China agreed to pull back from friction areas on Monday.

New satellite imagery, released by US firm Maxar Technologies, supports the claim that not only is the PLA holding ground in Galwan Valley but has also shored up its military positions in the area. One of the Maxar images too possibly points out a new and bigger observation post near PP-14. An Indian squad, led by the slain Colonel Santosh Babu of the 16 Bihar Regiment, had flattened some structures in this area including an observation post, on June 15.

The satellite images are from June 22 — the day senior Indian and Chinese military commanders reached a “mutual consensus to disengage” from all friction areas during an 11-hour meeting at Moldo on the Chinese side of the LAC.

Officials and China watchers, who reviewed the images for Hindustan Times, said the visuals clearly indicated a Chinese buildup and also a new outpost for carrying out surveillance on Indian areas. But they also added that it was important to give the armies time to disengage and pointed to the complexities of satellite imagery.

“A large number of tented camps, military vehicles, heavy trucks and bulldozers are clearly visible on the riverbed. Road construction is also taking place. The Chinese positions are bang on the LAC,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd), one of the experts who reviewed the satellite imagery for HT. Hooda said the observation post appeared to have come up again near PP-14.

The Chinese buildup in other areas along the LAC including Depsang, Gogra Post-Hot Springs and Pangong Tso, hasn’t thinned either. The PLA’s armoured vehicles and artillery units remain deployed in Chinese areas facing Depsang and Gogra Post-Hot Springs sectors.

The army is keeping a strict vigil along the LAC and is fully prepared to respond to any provocation or adventurism by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said the second officer cited above. Given the observed build-up, the army is also prepared to keep its guards up till disengagement takes place on the ground on a verifiable basis.

But experts also said that it was important to be cautious.

The process of disengagement is likely to be arduous and challenging, and will require moving ahead cautiously in phases, as reported by HT on Wednesday.

“Disengagement can’t happen overnight. While the images are a cause for concern and somewhat reveal China’s intentions to hold ground near LAC in Galwan Valley, the result of the talks between senior commanders will not reflect on the ground in just two days,” Hooda said.

The interpretation of satellite imagery is also tricky and can result in reaching incorrect conclusions, said Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd), a former director general of military operations.

“It’s about how you superimpose the LAC on satellite images. It allows you to reach your conclusions. However, some of the interpretation may be correct,” said Bhatia who heads the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, a defence ministry think tank.

China has deployed more than 10,000 troops in its ‘depth areas’ across the LAC in eastern Ladakh and the military buildup consists of fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, artillery guns, missile systems and air defence radars. India has matched the neighbour’s military moves.

While disengagement in some friction areas is believed to be a “low-hanging fruit” and can be achieved in a reasonable time-frame, the “real test” would lie in the restoration of status quo ante in the Finger Area in Pangong-Tso, where the PLA has set up permanent bunkers, pillboxes and observation posts, officials said. China watchers believe that the disengagement process is likely to be less complicated in the Gogra Post-Hot Springs and the Galwan Valley sectors, where there are no real issues about the alignment of the LAC, if Beijing abides by the understanding.


India to stand by Bhutan for post-Covid-19 recalibration: Envoy

By Devadeep Purohit

India has made all efforts to ensure the uninterrupted movement of essentials as well as non-essential commodities to Bhutan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured his counterpart Lotay Tshering that New Delhi will give all possible support to the Himalayan nation to minimise the health and economic impact of the pandemic.

In an interview to The Telegraph in mid-May, Indian ambassador to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj, explained in detail what Delhi is doing for its most trusted friend in the region.

The India-Bhutan friendship is getting reinforced in this time of lockdown. Will you please share details of how India is standing by its close and friendly neighbour?

Kamboj: India-Bhutan cooperation continues apace, in the times of Covid-19, encompassing myriad areas, including provision of essentials as well as our support to the re-prioritisation of projects envisaged by the Royal Government of Bhutan under the 12th Five Year Plan to bolster Bhutan’s Economic Stimulus Plan of Nu 30 billion.

The Government of India has made all efforts to ensure the uninterrupted movement of essentials as well as non-essential commodities to Bhutan. Around 500 vehicles carrying essential goods and supplies enter Bhutan on a daily basis, a figure that is comparable to the number of vehicles prior to the lockdown in India.

Despite the lockdown restrictions, India has also facilitated the maximum number of special Druk Air flights to ensure the return of Bhutanese students and nationals…. 1,739 (1,778 as of May 30) Bhutanese nationals from Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Mohali, Mumbai, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi have been able to return to home territory as an outcome of these efforts.

We have assured Bhutan that India will stand in solidarity as it re-calibrates its development pathways in the wake of Covid-19.

India’s gestures have been lauded by His Majesty the King of Bhutan as well as the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay Tshering. It is indeed most gracious of Bhutan to have acknowledged this friendship between two special friends. Significantly, India’s efforts have also been lauded by the Bhutanese people, in particular our support in ensuring essential supplies to Bhutan during the lockdown, and the handing over of medical supplies, as would any good friend to another, in times of need.

Going forward, how is the Indian government planning to keep the supplies normal in Bhutan?

Going forward, this support will continue to be extended by the government of India. In his recent telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Prime Minister Modi had referred to the timeless and special nature of India-Bhutan ties, and assured Lyonchhen that India would ensure all possible support to Bhutan for minimising the health and economic impact of the pandemic.

Bengal becomes key, because of geography, in the Indian government’s initiatives to keep life normal in Bhutan. Please do share details of the Delhi-Calcutta hand-holding to ensure supplies in Bhutan.

The ‘duars’ of north Bengal signify doorways. And indeed if I say that north Bengal is the gateway to Bhutan, few would disagree. The India-Bhutan border crossing at Jaigaon/Phuentsholing is the key entry point for not only both Indian and foreign tourists but also essential goods and commodities.

The Bengal government, the ministry of external affairs, the government of India and the Royal Government of Bhutan have worked tirelessly and in close coordination with one another to ensure that essential supplies move seamlessly from India to Bhutan. And here I must especially acknowledge the efforts of our colleagues in the Bengal government who have worked proactively in the cause of the special and privileged India-Bhutan relationship in these testing times. Indeed, their actions have strengthened the long-standing bonds of friendship between our countries….

India is extending help to several countries in this hour of crisis. But in case of Bhutan, the responsibility seems to be much more. Will you please explain the reasons?

Bhutan is a land-locked country and most of its essentials such as food, fuel and medicines emanate from India even in normal times. Hence, we would be failing in our duty if we did not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bhutan and ensure that supply lines remain intact even in these challenging times. Supply of raw materials and basic resources needed by Bhutan from India are also important to ensure that its indigenous industries and factories do not close down.

Bhutan is virtually a Covid-free country. How did they achieve this feat?

Bhutan has had only 15 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (which has gone up to 43 on May 31), with no deaths so far. All the Covid-19 positive cases have been individuals who have travelled to Bhutan from abroad. Of the 15 Covid-19 cases, five (now six) persons have recovered.

So far, there has been no local or community transmission in the country. While there has been no lockdown in Bhutan, the country is in partial lockdown mode with all borders closed, all educational institutions indefinitely closed for now, work from home in many government and private offices, emphasis on physical distancing in public places and public transport and restrictions on public gatherings.

The health ministry of Bhutan has developed two apps — Druk Trace and Stay Home — to facilitate contact tracing in public places and public transport and to monitor/track people placed in quarantine.

Municipal officials and ‘Dessups’ (volunteers) are ensuring strict implementation of the restrictions and Covid-19 precautions imposed by the government across the country.

May I add that Bhutan has been hugely successful till date in containingCovid-19 through its emergency response, by a simultaneous closure of borders, a 21-day mandatory quarantine in designated facilities for all persons returning to Bhutan, a combination of proactive testing and tracing along with compulsory testing of all quarantined persons before discharge.

And needless to add, the leadership of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, who has led from the front, has been critical in shaping Bhutan’s Covid policy response. In fact, Bhutan’s containment model for Covid-19 could well be a model/exemplar for many others.

Tourism is a very important sector of the Bhutan economy. How is the country managing the loss of income from the tourism sector?

The Tourism Council of Bhutan has re-prioritised its flagship programme to engage those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, through a stimulus package. As per the council, the expected budget for the stimulus plan is Ngultrum 286 million. It is expected to benefit about 2,436 people in the tourism industry, who would be engaged under four different areas: infrastructure and project development, training and re-skilling, waste management and surveys and study projects in the tourism sector.

The benefits of the activities will contribute to the development of infrastructure, training, development of an eco-tourism master plan, assessment of trekking routes and creation of amenities at major tourist sites, leading to an overall enhanced experience for tourists as well as the development of the tourism sector which is based on the ‘High Value-Low Impact’ model.
Indian ambassador to Himalayan nation, Ruchira Kamboj, in an interview with The Telegraph


Nepal releases new political map showing Lipulekh and Kalapani as part of its territory

Nepal has issued a new national map incorporating areas also claimed by neighboring India, prompting fierce criticism from New Delhi.

At issue is about 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) of mountainous land incorporating Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. Nepal’s new map locates the small stretch of disputed land within its northwest border, between China and India.
The cartographic dispute is based on differing interpretations of treaty signed by the British East India Company with the King of Nepal in 1816, which established the boundary between the two countries. Though both sides have long claimed the territory as their own, Wednesday marked the first time Nepal issued a map including the disputed area. India already includes the contested area in its own official map.

The dispute was reignited on May 8, when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh virtually inaugurated a newly built 80-kilometer (50-mile) road connecting India’s Dharchula to Tibetan autonomous region via the Lipulekh pass, which is part of the contested area.
India expects the route to facilitate trade and the movement of Hindu pilgrims to Mansoravar lake in Chinese-administered Tibet, which is considered auspicious.
But hundreds of angry Nepali protesters took to the streets across Nepal opposing the Indian inauguration, burning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effigy and called it a violation of their territorial sovereignty.
Nepal responded quickly. On May 9, its foreign ministry issued a statement asking India to “refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal.”
India responded, saying that the inaugurated road section lies “completely” within its territory, and that the two countries would discuss it after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic had passed. “Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalized between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of Covid-19 emergency,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The next day, the Nepali government summoned the Indian ambassador over the matter.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli suggested India was bullying Nepal, and warned, “We won’t let go the issue of Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. This is our land and we will reclaim it. It is not a disputed land. It is our land. India created unnecessary controversy by claiming it as theirs. This government will make concrete efforts to reclaim the territories.”
Even China weighed in that day, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying during a daily press conference: “We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation.”
On Wednesday, Nepal officially unveiled its revised and expanded national map — a move that India’s foreign ministry quickly criticized as “unilateral” and lacking in “historical facts and evidence.” “Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India,” the ministry added in its statement.
Nepal has not explained why the areas were not previously included in its national map.
Unveiling Nepal’s new political map that includes territories on Wednesday, central minister Padma Kumar Aryal expressed hope India will take it “in a positive way”. This is an unusual optimism to settle a boundary question.

Aryal did not elaborate her “positive” remark. Given the nature of India-Nepal relation, however, indicates that the Nepal government hopes India will factor in what is going on domestically in Nepal’s politics


Nepal is being ruled by a relatively upstart political party, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which turned two over last weekend. The two-year-old party came into being with China’s ruling communist party after merger of two dominant communist parties of Nepal – the Marxist-Leninist and the Maoist.

Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli shares the chair of the Nepal Communist Party with Pushpa Kumar Dahal, more commonly known as Prachanda. Oli is from the Marxist-Leninist stream and Prachanda from Maoist faction.

Oli became the prime minister following an electoral victory in 2017 and a compromise between the two factions in the ruling party in 2018. But his position in the Nepal’s PMO has not been secure. There has been pressure on him to make way for a Maoist prime minister.

Covid-19 outbreak in Nepal and the failure of the Oli government to manage the disease in the country only mounted pressure on the prime minister, who was not ready to let go the reins of the power out of his hand.

Though, he once proposed to resign in favour of Bamdev Gautam. But the other factions, particularly the one under Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal did not agree.

Then in the middle of Covid-19 outbreak, the Oli government promulgated two ordinances on April 20. They were not related to Covid-19 strategy. These laws amended the Political Parties Act of Nepal making it easier to split a party.

This move baffled political observers as the Nepal Communist Party has majority in the country’s parliament. This, however, exposed the fault-lines lying beneath the surface unity of the party, and also the growing pressure on Oli to quit.

The Kathmandu Post reported that the approval for the ordinances from President Bidya Devi Bhandari came while a secretariat meeting was underway to discuss the ordinances. The daily called it “well-choreographed move”.

Soon after the ordinances were brought out, the rival faction stepped up ante against Oli. Prachanda took charge of the rival faction forcing Oli to withdraw the ordinances in four days.

This was also the time when Chinese ambassador in Nepal got involved holding meetings with both factions and also with President Bhandari. A compromise was reached. But public opinion was going against the government and the ruling party.

Some time in between a strategy was devised to deflect public attention from crisis in the government and its failure to tackle Covid-19 crisis. National pride became the rallying point. Oli has a history of thriving on anti-India sentiments.

India soon opened new Kailash Mansarovar route through Lipulekh pass. Nepal protested. The November 2019 updated map released by India provided the launching pad.

India had released its new political map following creation of two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh from erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The map can be seen here.

Nepal had then protested over inclusion of Kalapani in India’s map. India had then said its boundaries with Nepal had not been altered in the new map.

Six months later, Nepal has now released its new political map. Its old map obviously did not show Kalapani, Lipiyadhura and Lipulekh as its territories. These areas have not been under Nepal’s administration.

There is more to Kalapani story and Oli’s anti-India stance. During his first term as Nepal’s prime minister, there was a constitutional crisis in Nepal fueling anti-India sentiments with India unofficially imposing blockade for months. To counter India, Oli had signed a series of agreements with China.

His remark that novel coronavirus from India is more lethal than the variants from Italy and China, is convenient politicking to raise an anti-India sentiment among his political constituencies.
The issue

The main issue is that Lipulekh Pass is considered a disputed border region by Nepal and both the countries claim it to be a part of their territory. India has always been clear on this and considers Lipulekh within the country borders. On Friday (May 8), the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the new route to reach Kailash Mansarovar. Indians and Tibetans have been in border trade for quite some time now at the Lipulekh Pass and this new road links the pass to Dharchula, which is a town in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand in India. Soon after the inauguration, Nepal raised an objection to the new route.

As of now, the second stretch is being converted into a double lane road by the Border Roads Organisation. Till now, 76 km of the 80 km stretch, (that will cut down the travel time to two days by vehicles) is completed and the last 4 km stretch till Lipulekh Pass is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

A statement released by the Ministry of Defence said, “The road originates from Ghatiabagarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar. In this 80-km road, the altitude rises from 6000 to 17060 ft. With the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous, high-altitude terrain can now be avoided by the pilgrims of Kailash-Mansarovar”.

Why is Nepal objecting to the connecting road for Kailash Mansarovar through Lipulekh Pass?Credit: iStock

The new route via Uttarakhand will have three main stretches.

1) The first one is a 107.6 km long road from Pithoragarh to Tawaghat.
2) The second will be from Tawaghat to Ghatiabgarh on a 19.5 km single lane.
3) The third is the 80 km from Ghatiabgarh to Lipulekh Pass at the China border.

The Lipulekh stretch can be only covered on foot and almost takes five days to reach. Not only this, a number of accidents have happened on this road. Till now, Indian pilgrims could reach Kailash Mansarovar via three routes only, through Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal).