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Satellite images reveal China's rapid construction in Bhutan's Beyul Khenpajong

07:49 PM Jan 07, 2024 IST | NE NOW NEWS
UpdateAt: 07:50 PM Jan 07, 2024 IST
satellite images reveal china s rapid construction in bhutan s beyul khenpajong
Satellite images reveal China's rapid construction in Bhutan's Beyul Khenpajong

Guwahati: In a recent set of satellite images obtained, it has been reported that China is rapidly "encroaching" on northeast Bhutan by constructing townships along the river valley in Beyul Khenpajong, an area of deep cultural significance.

These images, dated less than a month ago, showcase the alarming pace at which illegal land grabs are occurring across Bhutan's northern, western, and southwestern peripheries.

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Despite ongoing border talks between China and Bhutan, Beijing's construction activities persist, signalling a concerning disregard for diplomatic negotiations. The extent of construction in Beyul Khenpajong and the nearby Jakarlung region suggests that China might be too entrenched to consider any withdrawal.

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Satellite imagery experts consulted by NDTV describe the constructed settlements as "large format" and capable of housing hundreds of residents.

Over 200 single- and multi-storey structures have been counted so far, with the final number expected to be much higher as construction is still underway.

Bhutan, a nation with a population significantly smaller than India's National Capital Region, finds itself in a challenging position, unable to counter China's assertive moves.

Professor Robert Barnett, an expert on Tibetan history, highlighted that China is making dubious claims over an area of great cultural importance, exploiting the limited options available to its less powerful neighbour.

Bhutan's Ambassador to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel (retired), emphasized the country's commitment to upholding and safeguarding its territorial interests during ongoing boundary negotiations.

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The Beyul Khenpajong region, transformed since November 2020, includes valleys and hillsides carved into to accommodate an extensive road network connecting the enclaves. Multipurpose buildings across the region can potentially house several hundred residents.

The strategic significance of Beyul, or the hidden valley, is highlighted by John Pollock and Damien Symon in a recent piece published by Chatham House. The royal family's ancestral heritage is traced to this mountainous region, yet Bhutan's government appears powerless to prevent Chinese settlements.

China's encroachment into Bhutan also raises security concerns for India, as seen in the 2017 Doklam standoff.

The current land grab in Bhutan is perceived as part of China's broader strategy to extend its presence southward, potentially threatening the Siliguri corridor—a narrow land strip connecting the northeast with the rest of India.