The PLA is widening and refurbishing an existing road just 10 kilometres away from the site of the recent 72-day faceoff, according to news reports.
So far, India has not objected to the construction activity. The road in question does not move southwards towards the Jampheri Ridge, unlike the one that sparked the faceoff in June. However, it does lie in territory formally claimed by Bhutan.
‘The PLA is now using the construction material and bulldozers it had brought to the face-off site at Doklam to improve the road it built in the region some years ago,’ The Times of India quoted an anonymous source as saying.
According to NDTV’s Vishnu Som, workers upgrading the road are escorted by 500 troops who appear to be based out of the nearby town of Yatung. Som reports that there are no ‘signs of permanent structures to accommodate Chinese soldiers in the area which is snow-bound and bitterly cold in the winter. ‘
Som also reports that: ‘Army officers NDTV has spoken to believe that the new road construction is meant to be a strong signal of Beijing’s intent to prove its territorial claims.’
Earlier in the week, this blog had noted that China was probably keeping up the pressure in Doklam to prise Bhutan away from its alliance with India. The Bhutanese are more amenable than India to the idea of conceding much of the Doklam plateau to China in exchange for other territories.
On Tuesday, foreign secretary S Jaishankar held talks with Bhutanese officials in Thimphu, the first such visit since the faceoff ended.
According to one report, a ‘proposal for a trilateral mechanism, involving representatives of India, China and Bhutan, to settle the trijunction boundary point is on the cards.’
Meanwhile, the Chinese have also reportedly built ‘incursion camps’ in the Duktegang region, about 100 kilometres from the site of the Doklam faceoff and are consolidating their presence on two ridges overlooking the south-bound road that was the cause of the confrontation.