The 73-day India-China standoff at the Doklam plateau near Nathu La in Sikkim in 2017 began when New Delhi objected to Beijing carrying out construction activities in the disputed region. And more than a year later, China's "all-weather road" in Doklam is reportedly nearing completion.
Intelligence sources have revealed that a 12-km-long stretch of Merug La-Doklam road has almost been completed and has also undergone black-topping, reported News18. While the construction began after the standoff ended, the sources added that the black-topping work has been going on since September 2018.
Now that the roads have been constructed, which in turn would make the region easily accessible, Doklam is likely to see increased deployment of the People's Liberation Army. Meanwhile, it has been said that China is also constructing roads between Yatung and Jelep La, and this stretch too has been black-topped.
Not just that, Beijing is also known to be constructing a 4.9-km-long road from Sinchal La towards Torsa Nala, which is the base of the Doklam plateau, the website reported. The road goes via Assam. Apart from roads, China has also been building other infrastructure in the region, including parking areas, communication spots, and helipads.
In July 2018, it was reported that China was carrying out a "major construction work" at the Doklam plateau and had come with all the required materials – over 10 construction vehicles, five temporary sheds, 30 other heavy vehicles and about 90 tents that housed the army and the construction workers. It was said that some of the tents had been put up just to conceal the work from Indian satellites.
Questions on Chinese construction were raised by Congresswoman Anne Wagner who said that the PLA had resumed its activities at the border and India was yet to object to it.
"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 had said.
While India had said that Beijing was carrying out no such activities, China had retorted that it was well within its borders and that India should not have issues with what it does in its territory. "We will keep building infrastructure in Doklam and India has no business to comment on construction activity on Chinese territory," it had said.
Should India worry?
Now that the road at Doklam is nearing completion, should India be concerned? The Indian Army believes that this is not a threat and said that the situation has, in fact, "changed in a positive way after Doklam."
Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat recently spoke to the Week and said that India too is building infrastructure at the Indo-China border and the standards are at par with Beijing.
"We are also building roads. We could not do it some years ago. But now we have decided to prioritise it, so we are focusing on it. We have enhanced our military-to-military engagement with the PLA," the Week quoted Rawat as saying. "We just had the Hand-in-Hand joint military exercise in China. Things have changed after Doklam in a positive way."